Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A warm welcome to author Nell Gavin

Hello, Nell, and welcome. Please describe your current work and tell us where to find it.

Blurb or excerpt:

Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn

When Henry and Anne meet in 1970, they presume they're meeting for the first time.

     They don't know they were married 434 years before. They don't know they parted on bad terms. Anne has no idea why she has a compulsion to punish Henry, a man she's only just met, and he has no idea why he can't be near her without falling in love.

      They don't know they are bona fide soul mates, bound to each other through eternity. They don't know that this meeting is a test...

     Several lifetimes ago, and hundreds of years earlier in 1536, Henry and Anne were at the mercy of influences outside their control, explosively incompatible, and caught in a marriage that ended in betrayal so shocking that Anne required lifetimes to recover.

     Henry, seemingly in defense of Anne (but more likely acting out of "stubborn perverseness", she observes), terrorized England and decreed widespread political murder in order to protect her. Ultimately, to Anne's horror, this once passionate husband turned on her and had her executed as well.
 
     Threads, a reincarnation fantasy, opens with Anne's execution. Her fury at her husband’s betrayal has enough momentum to survive centuries, but in Threads she learns that she has been assigned a hard task: she must review their history together through a number of past lives, and find it within herself to forgive him. This may prove difficult and take some time. The husband in question is Henry Tudor, the notorious Henry VIII. The narrator is the stubborn, volatile Anne Boleyn, who is not at all inclined to forgive. 

     It is a very unusual love story.

How were you inspired to write about such a fascinating topic?

I have always been somewhat of a religious heretic. I probably thought about religion more than most, and asked the hard questions. I examined world religions and came to conclusions. One of the things I always came back to was reincarnation, so I studied up on it, and decided I believed in it more than the religion I had been brought up with.

There were fictional books on reincarnation, but they never seemed to pull the laws of karma into the story. They didn’t ring true. To me, we’re all on a journey, and all here to learn. We’re in different grades, but we’re essentially all in school. I wanted to read a book that described the learning process, and the transformation we all go through as we evolve. No one seemed to have written it. So I did.

What is your background in this area, and what interesting information about
it did you discover during your research?


My only background in the Tudors came from living 13 miles from a Renaissance festival. We went every year. I had friends who worked the show, and I frequently helped them out, in costume. The king was Henry VIII and his queen was Anne Boleyn. In this particular festival, they were in their “honeymoon” phase before Elizabeth was born a girl, and Anne got bitchy.

I would look at them playfully teasing each other for an audience and think, “She’d skin him alive, if they met up today!” I had years of study and contemplation brewing in me, about karma and reincarnation. I started doing calculations in my head about what past actions would result in this or that, and it started turning into a story.

I began studying them when I began writing.

Probably the most interesting thing I learned about the Tudors were their toilet habits. I sat in a library and devoured a book about Tudor architecture, amazed by what I was reading.

It seems that courtiers would relieve themselves in the palace gardens, causing an unpleasant stench. Henry VIII couldn’t get them to stop, so he had crosses painted all along the fences. It was blasphemy to pee on a cross, so problem solved.

The palace also had plumbing, with hot and cold running water. Amazing to even consider, and I was astonished! Who knew? Also, It turns out, all the fine lords and ladies would relieve themselves in a unisex room, together. It was essentially a closet with a long board that had holes carved into it. The waste ended up in a bricked up container that occasionally needed to be cleaned. They hired (?) children and dwarves to clean it out because they needed someone small enough to fit into the opening. That was perhaps the worst job in history, in my opinion.

How is your approach different from others?

I don’t pattern myself after anyone else because I am not trying to be a “writer”. I get locked into a story, and I get obsessed, and the only way to tell it is to write it, so that’s what I do. I am not doing it because of a lifelong dream of being an author. It’s more like taking a dose of Ipecac. I write to purge. I’m not prolific. A book takes me years. And when I’m done, I feel better. “Threads” was a purgative for some events I had experienced when I was young. “All Torc’d Up” was a purgative for some events that happened a little later. I have another one coming that will address the years following that. No ETA. Figure 10 years to publication.

I also write differently from other people. I write the beginning, and then I write the end. Then the middle builds itself – I never know how the story will find its way to the end. I go back and forth, back and forth, abandoning chapters when I stop seeing the words clearly, and come back to them when they’re fresh again. I write what strikes me at that moment – I never force myself into a routine. I write mountains of words, and then carve away at them until the story comes out. In fact, I had most of Threads written before I even knew what order the chapters would go in. One day I sat down and put them into a cohesive order, and was very relieved that it all fit together.

The most important thing, I’ve found, is honing and perfecting just one or two chapters – make them really beautiful, and then proceed. Writing is mainly drudgery with a few precious and very fleeting moments of “inspiration” and “brilliance”. There’s a sense of hopelessness that follows you when you read your first draft. First drafts are deadly to your confidence. So I make sure to have one or two really finely-honed chapters I can fall back on, to reassure myself that I can do it. When I get discouraged, I read them.


Favorite authors?

Harper Lee, Betty Smith, Anne Frank…I prefer female authors to male authors, just because they delve a little deeper into the psyche. I’m not much for car chases.

When did you get your first ³Yes² and how long did it take you?  Did you get
your first story published after trying for a while, or did you write many
novels first?


I actually got my first yes by e-mail. I self-published “Threads” because I had serious concerns that a publisher wouldn’t “get” it. Some people don’t. So I went it alone.

When “Threads” first came out, I had a book signing and sold about 10 books. One of these books went to someone who knew a movie producer, and she passed the book along to him. He contacted me and wanted to make Threads into a movie. I couldn’t find an agent, and I’d read the horror story of Mrs. Von Trapp (The Sound of Music) who got $5,000 for the rights to her story, while Hollywood made millions. I didn’t want to do it without an agent, so I said no. Then, the second offer came about a year later, and I STILL couldn’t get an agent, so I turned that one down as well. When the third offer came, and I got two author friends to offer up their agents, so I picked one. She negotiated my contract for me. However, the movie never came to be.

Then an agent in Italy wanted to sign me. She had “Threads” translated, and sold it to a publisher in Europe.

It was very strange. I would sign into e-mail…how were these people finding my book? I never did find out.

Do you have other work out, such as short stories that readers can look at?

I’m not really a writer in the sense that I write whenever I can. I never wrote before “Threads”, and since then I’ve written “All Torc’d Up”. My profession was “Technical Writer”, so I wrote that. But that’s primarily all I’ve got.

What is your advice to aspiring authors concerning the craft of writing, a
writer¹s life or your genre of choice? Marketing?


You have to have a network. You have to have a group of people, a forum, a board, SOMETHING, that keeps you apprised of what’s going on. Things changed so quickly in the past few years. Paperback sales are dying. E-books are selling like hotcakes. You need to have a group of other authors who can hold your hand through the process, proofread your pitches, and give you honest feedback.

What should aspiring authors know about the publishing industry (besides
everything)?  Is there something important in particular that you have
learned?


I am not the sort of person who would do well with a traditional publisher. I put too much effort into it to water it down, or to consider “markets”, or what have you. I wouldn’t do well with being told to change things. I do know this: Indie publishers are making money. Traditionally published authors are languishing. The whole world is upside down.

Please tell us about your upcoming work.

My newest book is available at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38162. It will be available at other online vendors, including Amazon, shortly.

All Torc’d Up

In Chicago, 1958, a gunshot alters four-year old Holly’s life: her mentally ill mother has just committed suicide. Holly is subsequently raised by her grandmother whose abusive parenting laid the groundwork for her mother’s death.

Surviving her childhood, but still damaged and angry, 19-year-old Holly unexpectedly falls in love. Dreams of marriage and children, and a "normal" life, are suddenly within her grasp when she meets Trevor, who works as a roadie for a famous English rock band. However, as the relationship progresses she suspects that she may be more damaged than she previously thought.

Within the world of 1970s Rock and Roll, and with the bus, and the band and its entourage as a backdrop, the story takes Holly on tour across country as her relationship with Trevor gets progressively more serious, and her illness gets increasingly more difficult to hide.

Where can readers find you?
www.nellgavin.com

Thank you so much for being my guest today and taking time out to do this
interview! When I first heard about your book, Threads, I knew I had to have
it.  I really enjoyed it and will be looking for your other work. I
appreciate your time and insights.  Sincerely, Laura Hogg

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A warm welcome to author Marianne Stephens

Welcome, Marianne. I'm happy to host one of the stop of your blog tour for your nonfiction book, "Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall".

Guilty Survivor – Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall
Link: http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/MarianneStephens.html

BLURB:

Tamerla Kendall is the woman you see rooting for her son at sporting practice. You might meet her in a grocery story. Perhaps you’ll see her planting a garden behind her home. Or, talk to her at school or work. She’s a student, worker, wife and mother.

Surviving a dark past is hidden by her façade of an everyday, average life. Reading her memoirs will reveal her true struggle to survive in a war zone, and is a testament to her courage.

Bosnian Croat, Tamerla Kendall, lived through the carnage and chaos in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Hers is a story of courage, fear, ingenuity, and survival. Difficult choices she made then still disturb her peace of mind and life today.

She made a few trips out of Sarajevo, only to return to keep the family restaurant business operating. One carefully planned, secretive trip was made to remove her daughter from the dangers of fighting, but this created a heartbreaking rift in their relationship. For her second trip, Tamerla masqueraded as a United Nations Protection Forces soldier and rode in a tank. A uniform and travel assistance came from a Ukrainian general.

Her hopes for a return to normalcy at war’s end diminished as corruption and religious zealots took control. She married an American, and this marked her as an outcast by some she’d trusted. When her life was threatened at gunpoint, she faced a critical decision concerning her family’s safety in her beloved country.

Could you please tell us about this memoir?
Hi, and thank you for interviewing me!
Bosnian Croat, Tamerla Kendall, lived through the carnage and chaos in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Hers is a story of courage, fear, ingenuity, and survival. Difficult choices she made then still disturb her peace of mind and life today.

What got you interested in this story?
I’ve ghostwritten one other nonfiction book and enjoyed the challenge of “getting into someone else’s head” and writing their story in first person. A mutual friend introduced us and when I heard some of her story details, I felt as if it would make a good book.

Do you have any personal connections to the people involved?
Over the past two years, I’ve gotten to know Tamerla. We’d meet for interview sessions where I’d take notes (and tape-record our talks) as Tamerla told her story. Her English has vastly improved, and as someone who didn’t see her everyday, I always noticed an improvement.

How did you gather the information?
Tamerla and I would meet and I’d gather her information as she spoke of her life before, during, and after the war. I also interviewed her second husband, an American, to gain some perspective from his point of view on some issues.

I contacted a professor in Austria, Dr. Florian Bieber, who’d written reports for the United Nations about the Bosnian War. I explained what I was writing and asked if I could use some of his statements in the books for historical reference. Instead of using information from UN reports, he graciously allowed me to use pages from the book he wrote about the Bosnian War.

What did you learn from working on this project?
Everyone has a story to tell! It may not be as dangerous and eventful as living through a war, but we all have so much in our background. Celebrities and politicians write their biographies, but everyday people have many fascinating life stories to tell, too.

Tamerla Kendall is the woman you see rooting for her son at sporting practice. You might meet her in a grocery story. Perhaps you’ll see her planting a garden behind her home. Or, talk to her at school or work. She’s a student, worker, wife and mother.

Surviving a dark past is hidden by her façade of an everyday, average life. Reading her memoirs will reveal her true struggle to survive in a war zone, and is a testament to her courage.

What feelings do you have about this?
I feel as if I know someone who lived through danger for days, weeks, years, and yet, never gave up hope. Tamerla set her goal…to save the family business and that was her motivation.
We can all be inspired to achieve our goals, just as she did. Quitting wasn’t an option, and finding inner strength is a key to success.

Is there anything you would like your readers to know?
Of interest to readers, Tamerla made a few trips out of Sarajevo, only to return to keep the family restaurant business operating. One carefully planned, secretive trip was made to remove her daughter from the dangers of fighting, but this created a heartbreaking rift in their relationship.

For her second trip, Tamerla masqueraded as a United Nations Protection Forces soldier and rode in a tank. A uniform and travel assistance came from a Ukrainian general.

Her hopes for a return to normalcy at war’s end diminished as corruption and religious zealots took control. She married an American, and this marked her as an outcast by some she’d trusted. When her life was threatened at gunpoint, she faced a critical decision concerning her family’s safety in her beloved country.

Is there anything else you¹d like to add?
I’ve also written 4 mainstream romance books (under the pen name Marianne Stephens) and 2 erotic romance books (under the pen name April Ash).

http://www.mariannestephens.net
http://www.aprilash.net

Where to find my books:

Marianne Stephens - Ellora’s Cave Mainstream “Blush” (was Cerridwen) imprint:
http://www.jasminejade.com/m-310-marianne-stephens.aspx

April Ash - Ellora’s Cave Erotic books:
http://www.jasminejade.com/m-441-april-ash.aspx

Marianne Stephens - Breathless Press:
http://www.breathlesspress.com

Marianne Stephens – Secret Cravings Publishing Nonfiction Imprint – Living and Learning:
http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/MarianneStephens.html

Marianne Stephens – Amazon Books: ebooks and print:
 http://www.amazon.com/Marianne-Stephens/e/B003NT0QSQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_6?qid=1293604293&sr=8-6

April Ash – Amazon Books: ebooks and print:
http://www.amazon.com/April-Ash/e/B003OJRSSG/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1293604456&sr=1-1

Marianne Stephens and April Ash – All Romance Ebooks – Search for names:
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html

Nonfiction Book:
Publisher: Secret Cravings (Imprint: Living and Learning)
Buy Link: http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/MarianneStephens.html
http://www.mariannestephens.net

Guilty Survivor – Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall
Link: http://www.secretcravingspublishing.com/MarianneStephens.html

Unofficial Excerpt:

Restaurant Meli was attacked more than once by grenades. I was downstairs in the bakery area the first time when a grenade was thrown. It destroyed my beautiful winter garden. There was broken glass and debris everywhere and the storefront was damaged.

My first reaction was one of fear and panic. I froze where I stood, wondering if the basement had also been hit and damaged. My heart skipped a beat, and then began beating wildly. What if I’d been upstairs? What if customers and my employees had been there? Then, my fear turned to anger. Why was this happening? Who were the cowards who tried to steal my sanity and wanted to drive me away?

That same day, my employees and I put up a heavy protective wall covering in the front of the restaurant. This remained in place during the war and for some time after the war ended.

In that one instant, everything changed before my eyes. I had felt a kind of safety I’d convinced myself existed inside my restaurant. I now knew that was no longer true.

Another time, a grenade destroyed my roof. After my initial sense of heart-pounding fear, anger again took its place. I let frustration rule my senses. I got up on the roof and had some employees help me repair the damage.

It was a long, difficult job, and a saner person might have considered how vulnerable we were standing out in the open. I’d gone beyond sane level thinking and just wanted to fix the damn roof. My employees didn’t balk at this, but joined me in doing the job quickly.

We had to put rolls of material and hot asphalt on the roof. Roof attacks happened five or six times. We fell into a routine of accomplishing repair work between sniper attacks.

Death and destruction were everywhere. There was no avoiding this. Ignoring it as if it didn’t happen on a regular basis would be like ignoring an elephant sitting in the restaurant.

Wow, Marianne, this sounds fascinating and touching. Thanks so much for sharing, and I wish you well with the book!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The world's first novelist

About a thousand years ago, the earliest novel in human history was written. Lady Murasaki, or Murasaki Shikibu (born in the late tenth century) was a Japanese poet and novelist, best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, the first novel (written in the early eleventh century). The book has also been called the first psychological novel. Sounds interesting. Someday I may have to check it out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another list

Hello, here's a list of different animals, one for each letter of the alphabet, just for the fun of it:
Aardwolf, badger, cockatoo, donkey, ewe, ferret, gazelle, hedgehog, iguana, jackal, kangaroo, lemur, mongoose, newt, otter, porpoise, quail, rhinoceros, sloth, toad, umbrella bird, vole, walrus, xenops, yak, zebra.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A good reference for writers or those who love the English language

Hello, I just got this book on the English language. It has many interesting references in it and will surely be helpful for writing; especially since I love to write historical work. If a word seems too modern for the setting of my story, I'll look it up. It's divided into sections such as "In Use by 1600."

Here's an example from the book: "One could blab by 1400, blabber by 1470, and be a blab by 1350." Huh, I would have guessed these terms to be newer. I'm going to have fun learning with this book because I love language. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A creative endeavor

Hello, for fun, I tried to make a hemp and bead necklace. This is my very first attempt. I know I need to practice, but as a kid, I'd make my own doll clothes--the other kids made fun of them, but that's okay--so I know I have the potential to improve, lol. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

CSN stores review

Hello, I was lucky enough to get to do a review for CSN stores again. With over 200 stores containing products ranging from art to furniture to shoes, and much more, there is so much to choose from.
This time, I chose a pair of shoes and a little handbag for review. I was not financially compensated for this and offer only my honest opinion on the matter.

For the shoes, I chose a pair of Aerosoles. I've worn other shoes by them before and was very happy due to the comfort of the shoes and the fact that they were stylish. Comfort and style...two things that I think go great together, especially since I walk a lot and don't want to get sore feet. (Also, having once been a professional nail technician, I know what poor-fitting shoes do to feet over time--no thank you!)

The pair of Aerosoles that I already have are flats. This pair here that I'm reviewing has heels, but rather wide heels (another good thing for me since I don't do well with narrow heels--most of my shoes are flats).

Being being drawn to this brand again I also chose this pair of shoes because they're attractive. I work in a private school, one-on-one with students in my office. The shoes have a professional, yet fashionable look to them. I will most often wear them to work, and the heel won't be a problem for me because I sit at my job. These shoes look really classy and will go great with my work clothes, but they're adorable enough that I'd wear them on the weekend too, perhaps with jeans? I'll have to try that. They'd go well with a skirt too.

Okay, now for the second test: would they be as comfortable as that other pair that I have with this brand name? I had to unzip the side to get them on then walked around. They were a tad loose, but not enough to be a problem. I won't be able to wear thin socks with them though, or there would be too much wiggle room. That's okay for me though. My feet get cold easily, and I don't like thin socks anyway. They weren't AS comfortable as those flats I own, but they weren't uncomfortable, and flats are supposed to be cozier on the feet than heels anyway. They feel better than high heels though, by far. When I chose this pair to review, I took a small chance because of the heels, but seeing their width, I shrugged off my concern. Walking in them, I wobbled a little, but I haven't worn heels since I was in my twenties (the Clinton years). I'll get used to that fast though, I'm sure, because they're not that high.













Now for the stats: Aerosoles Egg Role Pump:

*The shoes of the Egg Role collection come in black fabric, black leather, gray leather, and dark brown. I got the black fabric pair.
  • Distressed glazed leather upper
  • Rubber sole
  • Fabric lining with zipper
  • Manmade suede sock liner
  • Self covered heel and buttons
  • 3' heel

This is a good brand, and I'd buy from them again. Dealing with CSN stores is great, as usual. I like the fast, friendly service, and shopping online simplifies things for me because I mostly rely on the bus and walking. Having more than 200 stores in one place is another convenience. One can find a variety of things without having to spend the whole day searching around. The shoes arrived in the mail in good condition and in a timely matter.

Now for the second item I received for review: A Murval Max Quilted Wristlet.

I don't carry around a purse, but rather a backpack because I'm a voracious reader, and as an author (I write at night when I get home from work) I'm constantly researching and lug books with me everywhere. Sometimes though, all I need is my wallet and maybe one other item when I walk into a store or a restaurant. Bringing in the backpack would be too much. When I saw this wristlet, I was intrigued. My wallet and itouch could fit in it when I have to leave my backpack behind.

I'm a practical person, but I'm also an artist. I used to draw a lot, but I play two instruments and used to be in a rock band. Looking for an item that was both useful and logical for me as well as being cute and unique, I was drawn to this little wristlet. It arrived in the mail shortly after the shoes. I put my wrist through the chain like a bracelet. It was a good size; not too big.






It looks good and does the job. Now for the stats:

  • Constructed of 100% cotton
  • Interior lining is 100% polyester
  • Bag closure is with a zipper along side
  • Fabrication is canvas soft
  • Do not soak in water
  • Dimensions: 6" H x 6" W x 1.5" D
MURVAL is a French company founded in Paris by 2 sisters, Muriel and Valerie.  Kind of cool.The Wristlet came with a tag that had a friendly little note from the sisters, adding to its charm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Some random, interesting things

Hello, I'm reading this book called The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You know is Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. There are many things in it I found surprising. I'll list a few, briefly. :)

According to this book:

A person is more likely to be killed by an asteroid than by lightning.
Camels come from North America.
The Universe is oficially beige (not black with silvery bits).
Who blew the nose off the Sphinx? (Not Napoleon. The most likely answer is 6000 years of wind and weather on it.)
The place of baseball's invention? England. (Really?)
How many states does the United States have? Technically, 46. Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are officially commonwealths. (I guess I was born in a commonwealth.)
What do camels have in their humps? Fat. (The only one that didn't surprise me.)
How long is the day? Depends on some different factors but never exactly 24 hours long. It can be as much as 50 seconds more or less than this.
The longest animal? The bootlace worm. (I guessed the blue whale.)
And the loudest thing in the ocean? Shrimps.
Okay, I'm officially surprised. The book is filled with tons of these, and it gives elaboration.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's greetings

Hello, I hope you have a wonderful, inspiring, happy new year!