An interview with Michele (M.E.) May

Signing at C&S 11-23-13Michele May, whose pen name is M. E. May, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived in central Indiana until she met her husband, Paul, and moved to Lake in the Hills, Illinois, in 2003.

She studied Social and Behavioral Sciences at Indiana University, where she learned how the mind and social circumstances influence behavior. While at the university, she also discovered her talent for writing.

Michele is an active member of Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter, Sisters in Crime Chicagoland, Speed City Sisters in Crime in Indianapolis, and the Chicago Writers Association and its affiliate InPrint.

Her Circle City Mystery Series is appropriately named as these stories take place in her home town of Indianapolis. The first novel in the series, Perfidy, won the 2013 Lovey Award for Best First Novel, and the second novel in the series, Inconspicuous, was nominated for the 2014 Best Suspense Novel. Book three, Ensconced, was released in March 2014.

 

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Michele: I’ve been writing in some capacity since I was ten. Most of my early writing was for school creative writing assignments, and in diaries and journals. As an administrative assistant, I had the opportunity to draft business letters, memos and emails, and write procedures. Even though a lot of my early experience in writing was non-fiction and business, I always knew I had a fiction novel in me. In 2008, my wonderful husband and I talked about my desire to “buckle down” so I quit my full time job and started writing my first “baby,” Perfidy.

 

 

PJ: That’s great! At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

 

Michele: It felt really good to finish that first manuscript and have someone offer me a publishing contract. However, the moment I truly felt successful was when readers started telling me how much they loved Perfidy, especially when I got reviews from strangers. My biggest goal was to write a great story that people would enjoy.

 

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

 

Michele: Writing isn’t the hard part, it’s what I had to do to be published and to brand myself. Sending letters and manuscripts to publishers and agents is much more complex than I thought. There’s no standard that goes across the board. Each publisher/agent wants a writer’s submission to be done their way. Then once I was published, the amount of self-marketing I have to do, the social media in which I must be involved, and the record keeping was overwhelming. Sometimes I’m scrambling for enough time to write.

 

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

 

Michele: I’m pretty realistic when it comes to expectations. After I completed my first draft of Perfidy, I took a part-time job in order to finance my new profession, because I knew it would take at least three books to get out of the red. As in any small business venture, whether knitting baby blankets or writing books, one has to realize that the first and second years won’t likely see a profit. There are many expenses connected to starting a venture such as this. Once the book comes out, there are marketing expenses such as advertising, bookmarks, postcards, conferences, and travel. Most authors I know have told me not to give up my day job. It’s very rare to see someone become wealthy as an author.

 

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to being published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

 

Michele: As I mentioned before, once the book is released then the marketing begins. It’s been difficult at times to balance a schedule for marketing and writing. I finally decided to hire a publicist to assist me with my branding. It’s also a fact that readers expect to see us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. In addition, every author is expected to have a website and/or to blog. I know I have to give these marketing opportunities my attention, but I also have to find a balance so I can produce the quality novels my readers expect from me.

 

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 

Michele: Actually, it was a relatively short time. I had my completed, unedited manuscript ready by December 2009 and in February 2010; I attended a mystery writer’s conference where I met the publisher who offered me a contract for Perfidy. However, when I listen to other authors speak about how long it took for them; I find most people wait 5-10 years before they find a publisher. I was very lucky to have an offer so quickly.

 

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

 

Michele: I wish I’d had an intellectual properties attorney go over my contract and negotiate it for me. I cannot express enough the importance of having an intellectual properties attorney read a contract and explain the details to you.

 

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 

Michele: I’ll confess right now that I haven’t done as well as I’d like to be doing. I’m not the only author that feels this way. I’ve heard many complaints about how promotion takes away from their writing time. It’s especially difficult for those who have a “day job.” As I said previously, I finally took the plunge and hired a publicist and just that action took a big load off my shoulders. I try to take at least one day of my weekend and devote it to writing, which helps a great deal.

 

 

PJ: What’s the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

Michele: I would have to say it was the night I won the 2013 Lovey Award for the Best First Novel at the Love is Murder Mystery Writers Conference in Chicago. To have my peers and readers vote for me and give me this distinction for Perfidy, was such a thrill and an honor.

 

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that has happened to you as a writer?

 

Michele: The book launch for my first novel was pretty dismal for various reasons, chief of which were several broken promises of advertising and press releases that didn’t happen. However, I made the best of it and had a great time with those who came. I guess the lesson there is to follow up. My other two launches went very well.

 

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now more than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

Michele: There was reader who reviewed Inconspicuous on Amazon (Kindle) who said, “Her writing style is a cross between Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, and Agatha Christie, an observer of small details who peppers her novels with clues for readers to pick through and try to solve the mystery.” What a fabulous compliment.

 

I think my style and the fact that my main character is the police department make it more interesting. I bring a different police officer or family member of an officer to the forefront in each novel. I’m hoping this will keep the series as fresh and fun for me to write as it does for my readers.

 

I also think the fact that I’ve used Indianapolis, as my setting instead of the same huge metropolises other authors use is unique. The fact that I can take my hometown and show it to others through my eyes is a joy for me, which makes the writing easier.

 

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

Michele: Don’t stop writing. I have a book entitled, The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing by Danell Jones. In it, she has written about a workshop conducted by the great Virginia Woolf who states that we should write something every day, even if you write, “I don’t know what to write today.” It’s important to keep up your skills by taking courses in writing and going to workshops. And, most important, when you feel you are getting to the point of querying publishers or agents, have your book edited by a professional. This can make a big difference in whether or not someone will read more than a few lines of your book.

 

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Michele: Having the opportunity to get out and talk to readers. Every time I do a presentation, go to a conference, or bookstore, my sales go up. It seems that once readers hear the story of how I got started and hear a little bit about the books, they become anxious to read them. If one can convince people to read one book, they will come back for more.

 

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Michele: Getting all of those lovely people who’ve purchased the books who tell me they can’t wait for the next one to write a review. I know from my own experience as a reader that it’s sometimes difficult to find the time, especially when I read many books. In that respect, I can’t complain. However, I’ve become more diligent in doing reviews now that I’m an author and realize how important it is.

 

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

 

Michele: There are two independent booksellers I’d like to mention. First, Read Between the Lynes Bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois, which is owned by Arlene Lynes. She carries a variety of genres and has been very supportive of local authors. The second is Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park, Illinois owned by August Alesky. As the name implies he specializes in history and mystery. He not only supports authors in the Chicago area, but has opened his store to meetings for Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime to support future authors as well.

 

 

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological order or series order:

 

Michele: There are three novels in the Circle City Mystery Series; Perfidy, Inconspicuous, and Ensconced. One of my short stories, “Uncle Vito and the Cheerleader,” was published in an anthology entitled Hoosier Hoops and Hijinx, which was released in October 2013.

 

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) for your latest title:Ensconced_Front Cover only

 

In Ensconced, Missing Persons Detective, Tyrone Mayhew’s investigation into a cold case gives him insight into just how far people will go to protect someone they love.

 

 

PJ: Where can be buy it?

 

Michele: E-books can be purchased on Amazon.com. Books in print are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite online bookstore. If you go to your favorite bookstore and they don’t have it, they can order it for you.

 

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Michele: I’ve known that the desire to write a novel was deep inside me for most of my life. However, in my younger years I pushed that desire away because I didn’t know where to start or have the confidence that anyone would want to publish my works.

 

Then something so simple happened to me when my then eleven-year old grandson, Kodey, came to visit. He’d just received book six of the Harry Potter series. He said to me, “Nana, if you like the movies, you’ll really love the books.” I had allowed myself to get out of the habit of reading for several years at that point, but when he loaned me his Harry Potter books, I did fall in love with them. As I learned of J. K. Rowling’s struggle to publish this series, the desire for writing began to surface. I listened this time.

 

If you have a desire to write, do it. It doesn’t matter if you can finish writing it in six months or six years, just keep going. If the desire doesn’t wane, then this is what you were meant to do.

An interview with Patricia Batta

authorPatBattaPatricia Batta has been a writer since the fourth grade when the teacher instructed the class to write a story. She was so thrilled with process of creating a different world on paper that she wrote another one, and another, and another…. For many years Pat wrote mainly for her own pleasure and between jobs, but by the time she retired she had drafted one mystery novel and was working on a second. With time to dedicate to writing, she revised and completed work on the first of the Marge Christensen Mystery Series, then another, and another…. 

Pat lived and worked in Ohio and Pennsylvania before she and her husband moved to Seattle, Washington, where they lived for twenty one years, and where the Marge Christensen Mystery Series was born. Now back in Michigan, in addition to writing Pat is active in church and community, plays Bridge, reads, walks, travels, and enjoys almost anything a friend would like to do. A Michigan native, Pat attended Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, received her BA from the University of Puerto Rico, and went on to Oberlin College for a Master’s in
Teaching (MAT). 

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

PB: I discovered the power of writing when I was ten years old. I, a shy withdrawn child, could control a world with my pencil. I waited a lifetime, though, before retiring at age fifty-seven from work that put food on the table in order to fulfill my writing dreams.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

 

PB: That depends on how you define success. Financially, I’m not successful yet. If I weren’t retired, with enough money to subsidize publishing my own books, I couldn’t keep putting them out. I am doing what I set out to do with this mystery series, however, so in that way I am successful. The satisfaction of creating a product that many people enjoy reading and want more of began as soon as I published my first mystery novel, but I probably won’t feel completely successful until I think something I’ve written has a positive effect on someone’s life. I’m still “practicing” my craft and try to improve with each book.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out?

 

PB: I expected to write books which a publisher would buy. Then I would write another book while eventually collecting royalties. I didn’t expect to self-publish and I didn’t expect to struggle with distribution and promotion issues. On the other hand, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be (once I again conquered my shyness) to get out there and talk about my books with interested readers. Writing has also given me an excuse to travel to conferences and book festivals, keeping me active in my old age!

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

 

PB: At first, I thought I wanted a traditional publishing contract. I got dizzy trying to decide whether I needed an agent first or a publisher first and how I’d ever get one without the other. Of course, my books also were not quite ready for publishing when I started sending them out. Unfortunately, publishers and agents don’t have time to tell you why they don’t want your book, just that they don’t want it. By the time I had ten rejections each from agents and publishers, I gave up on them. But not on writing. I kept working on those same books until I thought I had something worth publishing. By now I was pretty sure that what I wanted to write would never have enough zing for the current market. I didn’t know what to do with them. Finally I decided that at my age I didn’t want to wait until someone wanted to publish my work. I would publish my books myself. People who know publishing have asked me why I don’t pursue a traditional contract now. They feel my books are good enough to interest a publisher. But I’ve become accustomed to owning my work and having complete control over it.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

PB: Holding a completed book in my hand – especially the first one.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

 

PB: Holding that completed book in my hand and realizing I can’t change anything in it any more.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

 

PB: I never quite got over being that shy, withdrawn little girl. Once I had a book out, I knew I had to face the public. I started with “meet and greet” signings where at first I sat, waiting for someone to show interest in my books. I watched other authors and gradually learned to put myself out there and engage the passers-by. I graduated to presentations and soon grew to love doing them. This has affected every part of my life – I now lead a Bible study class at church, chair a committee, initiate conversations rather than waiting for someone else to recognize me. Sometimes I wonder where that tongue-tied girl has gone and have to shut myself up.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

PB: I set out to write a mystery series about an average woman closing in on middle age. Marge might live next door to the reader – she’s not drop dead gorgeous, not a PI or involved with the law in any way at first – not tougher or braver or any of those other things outside the experience of the average reader. I wanted books that would attract a main-stream audience while embracing the values of Christianity without preaching. I hope that each book explores a value or relationship that we all deal with in our own lives. Some of the very things I want for my series keep it from selling more, but it is the series I wanted to write and the people who find it and enjoy reading that type of book (as I do) are always after me for the next one.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

PB: Whatever route you take to publication, be sure the book you publish is the best work you can do. Don’t even think about publishing until someone has given your book a thorough editing and proof-reading. If you are self-published you may have to pay to have someone give your book a professional reading. Self-published authors who neglect this step end up with typos, grammar problems, and other errors that turn off readers not only for themselves but for all self-published authors.

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

PB: Book promotion is a total challenge for me. My innate shyness still makes it difficult for me to approach book stores and libraries and initiate conversations about my books. It is hard to decide which on-line promotion is worth doing, then it takes huge chunks of my time to master the technology I need to do it.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

 

PB: Horizon Book Store in Traverse City (with branches in Cadillac and Petoskey) Michigan is very supportive of local authors. Seattle Mystery Bookstore in Seattle and Parkside Books in Redmond, Washington, have also been helpful.

 

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title

 

PB: “Something is warring in this palace,” are the first words Marge hears from her mother, Edith, when visiting her in Michigan after her last stroke. “I thimble somebody was kibitzed.”

Was someone truly killed, or had Edith lost more mental capacity to her last stroke than her ability to find the word she needed?

Marge, her mother, her staid and proper Aunt Valerie, and her rebellious and reckless niece Lisa form an unlikely team to try and discover the truth about what’s going on before Marge has to head back to her home in Bellevue, Washington.

 

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order

 

The Marge Christensen Mystery Series:howmany-smallfrontcover

What Did You Do Before Dying?

Why Did You Die in the Park?

Who More Than Wished You Were Dead?

Where Did You Die?

How Many Old Ladies Will Die?

 

PJ: Where can we buy it?

 

PB: Print versions of the books are available on my web page www.lillimarpublishing.com. They are also available in both print and Kindle from Amazon, and the first four are on Audible. The fifth will be there soon.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

I usually don’t know “who dun it” until I’m at least half way through the book. Even then, it sometimes changes. When I finally know for sure, I have to go back and plant clues so I don’t blindside the reader.

Thank you for sharing with us Pat!

An interview with Patricia Skalka

249 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Patricia: Honestly, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. I was the little kid sitting at the kitchen table scribbling stories on sheets of lined paper that I’d staple together into “books.” I wrote letters to distant relatives and plays for my Girl Scout troop, won an essay contest on the Statue of Liberty in sixth, at 11 and 12 submitted script ideas to TV producers, wrote for my high school and college newspapers. So, pretty much forever.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

 

Patricia: I’m easy to please. First time I saw my byline, I felt like I’d hit the big time.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

 

Patricia: I had a fantasy of being a foreign correspondent, hop scotching the globe and writing about war and exotic places. That never happened, but as a nonfiction writer I learned that interesting stories exist everywhere and that the most ordinary people often face extraordinary challenges. When I turned to fiction, I realized that the raw material for complex and interesting stories lies within, drawn from experience and imagination.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

 

Patricia: Some authors, like some athletes, are extremely wealthy. Then there are the rest of us who play for the love of the game.

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

 

Patricia: My focus hasn’t changed at all, other than a temporary hiatus to help promote my debut novel. My main objective is still to get published  — again.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 

Patricia: From the time I submitted the manuscript to the University of Wisconsin Press, about 18 months. But before that, I spent a couple of years querying agents who had nice things to say but never quite enough of them. And before that, I worked on and off for several years writing and revising drafts of the book.

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

 

Patricia: I would have started writing fiction earlier and not taken rejection as much to heart. Rejection is not the same as criticism; honest critiques are invaluable and can make one a better writer. Rejection bleeds the soul and sows doubt.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 

Patricia: I set goals, prioritize and make lists. Submitting and promoting can consume enormous chunks of time, so I make sure to carve out space for writing — preferably every day but during periods when that’s not possible, I set aside specific days and times to write or revise.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

Patricia: Shortly after the University of Wisconsin Press catalog previewing my book, the events coordinator from a library called the publicity department asking for my contact information because she wanted to schedule an event. It was so reassuring to realize people were interested in my work.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

 

Patricia: At one point, I worked with an agent who promised an auction for an early novella and came up with zilch. I was crushed.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

 

Patricia: I “opened” for Scott Turow at the recent World Book Night event at The Book Cellar in Chicago.

 

PJ: Wow, I bet that was exciting! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

Patricia: My work focuses on ordinary people faced with unusual circumstances; as such, I believe my fiction is a reflection of real life and presents the kinds of stories to which readers can relate.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

Patricia: Don’t give up, but at the same time never stop working to improve your craft. If you kneel at the altar of your own words, you will never get better. Learn to edit and revise, and then to do it again.

And, remember, that while you work as an individual, you are still part of a larger community. It’s important to network and reach out to other writers. You will learn from others and benefit from their support.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Patricia: The personal touch is always good but it’s hard if not impossible to do all the promotional work yourself; build a team: hire a publicist if you can, work closely with the publisher’s PR department, use all the contacts you can muster.

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Patricia: Cold calling by phone to introduce myself and the book.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

 

Patricia: Living in Chicago, it’s impossible to name just one! My list would include Women and Children First, Centuries & Sleuths, The Book Cellar and The Book Stall, but even that isn’t complete.

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

DeathStalksDoorCounty

          Death Stalks Door County is my debut novel, introducing The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries.

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 

Death Stalks Door County pits a clever killer against a former Chicago cop in a story of greed, revenge and lost love set in America’s heartland.

 

Where can we buy it?

 

Death Stalks Door County has national distribution; you can find it on the shelf of or order from a local bookseller or the University of Wisconsin Press as well as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Patricia: I drove the tractor during hay baling season on my grandmother’s farm — something most people would never guess about someone growing up in the city.

 

I originally intended Death Stalks Door County as a stand alone mystery but became so attached to my protagonist, I felt compelled to continue telling his story.

 

A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor.  Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.

Website URL: www.PatriciaSkalka.com

Blog URL: www.booksinbrief.net

Facebook URL:    https://www.facebook.com/patricia.skalka.1

Twitter: @PatriciaSkalka

 

 

An interview with John Fishwick

NEW-Fishwick-AuthorPhoto - CopyJohn Fishwick grew up on the Isle of Man—home of the Manx cat and the first country in the world to give the vote to women. He earned a degree in chemistry and geology from England’s Liverpool University then promptly joined the British Army to study Russian with British Intelligence. Following two wonderful years in Canada as a field geologist, he immigrated to the US where, after working on a top secret project for the government, he became a citizen.

The founder and principal operator of a high-tech materials company that has been in business for over forty years, John also holds various patents and enjoys lecturing on various subjects such as astronomy, geology,  evolution theory, and logic, critical thinking, climate change, energy sources, and the relation of art and science to universities, colleges, and world-wide on cruise ships. He is a longtime member of Mensa and a previous President of the Everglades Astronomical Society.

Previous publishing projects include over fifty technical articles, as well as a nonfiction book entitled The Applications of Lithium in Ceramics. He cautions prospective buyers to beware-once you put it down you can’t pick it up! His current writing focuses on fiction with the recent release of a novel A Flight to Romance. Other titles will follow. 

John is married to Nancy, who makes sure he has clean clothes and a spotless tie when he lectures, and is proud to have a son who is a professor of computer science at UT in Dallas and a granddaughter who just graduated from Harvard Law School.

He spends his time between South West Florida and the mountains of North Carolina, where Nancy and he enjoy playing golf and bridge.

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

John: I have been writing, mostly technical articles and patents, for about 50 years

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

John: After my articles had been published in technical magazines and favorably received, I started to believe that, while not yet an accomplished writer, at least I was on the right track.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

John: The writing of technical articles and books is quite different from writing fiction. There is little or no competition in the non-fiction market and you pretty much know the readers before you publish. Housewives are not going to buy my book on Lithium in Ceramics: this is not meant to be chauvinistic!

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

John: Writing my first novel-A FLIGHT TO ROMANCE- has been an absolutely fascinating experience for me from planning the story to publishing and promoting. The competition for readers is huge. The subsequent book talks and signings is a way to meet new people, mostly women, and to find out their opinions on plots and characters.

I never expected to make money on my first novel. Nor do I really expect to make a fortune on subsequent books .  Name recognition is, of course, critical. I don’t feel that I should write solely to appeal to a wider audience.  I write largely to satisfy a desire to educate as well as tell a story.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

John: Publishing has not changed my focus. Comments from members of book clubs will, to a certain degree, modify my writing. Maybe a little less technical stuff and a little more story!

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

John: My first technical book and my technical articles were published immediately.

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

John: Writing my second novel-THE YELLOWSTONE AFFAIR- will be modified a little for broader appeal.  I told my publisher that the genre of my first novel was a “Romance”. In retrospect, I should have called it “An Intellectual Romance” so as to distinguish it from a “bodice ripper”.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

John: I write only when I feel like it. I don’t plan several hours per day, every day.

 

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

John: The most interesting and exciting thing that has happened is that I have met many people, mostly women, on more of an intellectual basis.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that has happened to you as a writer?

John: No real disappointments yet.  I think of myself as a realist and pragmatist. I never expected to receive a call from Woody Allen anxious to buy the movie rights. But it’s early days yet!

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

John: Promoting books is, for me, a new experience and I’m loving it.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

John: I try to bring fascinating science into my books and I think, at least I’m told, that I can present science in an easy-to-understand manner.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

John: For new writers:  Don’t be afraid to fail-go for it.

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

John: So far, working with an experienced book promoter has been rewarding.

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

John: No real challenges.  I am very comfortable talking to large audiences.

 

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:BookCoverImage

John: Published titles.  Two books- “THE APPLICATION OF LITHIUM IN CERAMICS” and “A FLIGHT TO ROMANCE”

 

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Two protagonists, having lost their respective spouses, find a second chance of love through science, literature, and art.

 

Where can we buy it?

From Create Space:  http://createspace.com/4410601

On Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Flight-Romance-John-Fishwick/dp/1492921092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390671677&sr=8-1&keywords=a+flight+to+romance

On Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-flight-to-romance-john-fishwick/1118026627?ean=9781492921097

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

John: Beneath a cold, scientific exterior, I’m actually a romantic.

An interview with Tracy Weber

WebersmallheadshotTracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and German shepherd, Tasha. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with readers.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

Tracy: Not very long, to be completely honest. I started my yoga blog about three years ago, and I began writing my first novel  about a year after that. In terms of the publishing industry, I’m a neophyte. But I’m loving it.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

 

Tracy: I let you know when I get there. ;-) Writing is an interesting career, as there’s no one definition of success. On the one hand, I never imagined I’d find a publisher, so finding someone who even wanted to print my book seemed like a huge success at the time. On the other hand, I won’t be supporting myself with my writing any time soon. I’m learning to define a successful day as any day a reader connects with my work. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

 

Tracy: Honestly, I didn’t have many expectations. I’m still shocked I had the patience, stamina, and will to write something as long as a single book, much less a series. If anything surprised me, it was how challenging and fun the process of getting to know my characters has been. Kate, Rene, Michael, and Bella seem as much a part of my life as the “real” characters I deal with everyday.

 

I didn’t realize how hard it would be for a new writer to get established once she had a publisher, though. I have to do a lot more marketing and audience-building than I had ever anticipated. I should have known better, since I’ve been a small business owner for fourteen years.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

 

Tracy: Income? Writers make income?

 

In all seriousness, writing seems to be the most rewarding way to go broke on the planet. Writing is like acting: for every superstar sauntering down the red carpet, there are thousands of actor wannabes waiting tables at your local restaurant. Authors often joke that they would make significantly more money asking, “Would you like ketchup with those fries?” I’m certainly no exception, but I’m enjoying the ride, nonetheless.

 

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

 

Tracy: Now that I’m published, my main focus is trying to find readers who might enjoy my work. With literally millions of published works on Amazon and in bookstores, it’s hard for readers to even learn that my work exists, much less decide to invest the time and money to read it. Every reader is truly a gift that I cherish. Whether they like my writing or not—and fortunately, the vast majority of readers do like my writing—I cherish the time they spend reading my books.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

 

Tracy: I was so, so, so, so lucky. There are thousands of writers more talented than me who are still trying to find a publisher. I found an agent within a month of finishing the book, and she sold the series a few weeks later. It felt like it took forever at the time, but it was light speed in publisher time (which is like reverse dog years).

 

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

 

Tracy: I wouldn’t have waited so long to sit down and actually write the book. The story rattled around in my head for a good two years before I started typing. Once I found the wherewithal to actually work on it, I finished the first draft in three weeks. Two years of procrastination; three weeks of writing. How could I have waited so long?

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 

Tracy: Honestly, I’m still trying to figure all of this out.  I work for myself, so I have the luxury of working any eighteen hours each day I would like. ;-) Some days I work at my yoga studio pretty much nonstop; other days I write like my keyboard’s on fire. There’s a cost to ignoring one part of my life at the expense of another, of course, and sometimes those costs are large. But it’s a luxury I would not have if my employer expected me to be at the office eight hours a day, five days a week. The crazy schedule I’m keeping right now isn’t sustainable over the long term, so I’m trying to find more balance.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 

Tracy: Having Susan Conant agree to read my second book for potential blurb. She was the author who inspired me to write in the first place, and having her look at my book is nothing short of thrilling.

 

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

 

Tracy: I haven’t had any major disappointments yet. There certainly have been a trickle of minor setbacks along the way, but nothing I can point out as being a single big disappointment. I know you can’t see me right now, but rest assured, I am knocking on wood.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

 

Tracy: I have an unusual hook. There aren’t many writers who create yoga murder mysteries. Even better, mine also involves a crazy dog.

 

Yoga, dogs, and murder, what could be more fun?

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

 

Tracy: Don’t give up, and don’t procrastinate. Write every day. Write what you love. If you spend every day working on what you love most, even if you never get published, you’ll have had a good time. That’s what matters most.

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

 

Tracy: I’m kind of a funny, quirky person, so for better or worse, once people get to know me, they can’t wait to see what neurotic thoughts might pour out of my fingers next. I’ve had great luck promoting my books at book signings and on blog tours.

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

 

Tracy: Anything having to do with a camera. I hate being photographed or videoed. Whenever I see a photo of myself, all I can think is, “Who is that old hag, and why doesn’t she put on some makeup?” ;-)

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

DSC_3075_edited_4

Tracy:Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and Seattle Mystery Bookshop in Seattle have both been extremely supportive to me. I cannot thank them enough.

 

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

 

Tracy: Thus far, I’ve only published one book: Murder Strikes a Pose, the first installment of the Downward Dog Mystery Series. The second bookmurderCover768px[1] in the series, A Murderous Retreat, will be out in January, 2015.

 

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

 

Tracy:When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

 

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone—anyone—to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. But with the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast. Or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

 

PJ: Where can we buy it?

 

WeberandherdogTracy: Murder Strikes a Pose is available wherever books are sold. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at any major bookseller. If it’s not on the shelf, they can order it for you.

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

 

Tracy:I’m pretty open, so there’s very little that people don’t know about me. I guess I’ll share this: I’m considering a spinoff series from my second book that will take place at a vegan retreat center on Orcas Island, an island off the Washington Coast. Only my agent knows about that idea so far, so although she doesn’t qualify as “nobody,” you’re among the first.

Her first mystery, Murder Strikes a Pose is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever books are sold.

An interview with Donna Fletcher Crow

sharing JaneDonna Fletcher Crow is an author of historical novels including the epic Glastonbury, A Novel of Christian England, which was awarded First Place in Historical Fiction by the National Federation of Press Women. Donna lives and writes in Boise, Idaho.

 

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Ah, P J, how do you count?  I wrote my first short story in the third grade and designed my first series of novels in the sixth grade. I’ve considered myself a professional writer for more than thirty years— and have written more than forty novels in that time.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Donna: There have been many steps along the way. Earning enough to cover the cost of typewriter ribbons, paper and postage was the first one. (I wonder how many of your readers even remember those days?) Being asked to speak at writers’ conferences was another major benchmark. And just the other day my publisher said he wasn’t too worried about the title of my next novel because it would have my name on the cover. Wow! That was really cool.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Donna: The focus to me has always been telling the story I want to share. The thing is, one can’t share an unpublished story, so publication is a means to an end.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Donna: It must have taken a couple of years after I started marketing my first novel seriously. The thing is, it wasn’t really publishable when I started out, but I kept getting rewrite suggestions from editors along with the rejections. So every time I would rewrite and send it out again. That was a very important part of the process of becoming professional.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Donna: Time is always the greatest challenge. But I think that’s part of the human condition. I write three different series: The Monastery Murders, The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series and The Elizabeth & Richard Literary Suspense series. That way I always have one book I’m promoting, one in production with a publisher and one I’m writing. And, yes, it drives me crazy, but that’s the job.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Donna: I’m always looking to the future, so the most exciting thing hasn’t happened yet. But I’m thinking this summer will come close: I’ve been invited to speak at the Queens of Crime conference at London University in June and then two weeks later at the Felixstowe Book Festival. In between I’ll research my next two books— one set in London and one in Yorkshire. And best of all, my husband is planning to go with me.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Donna: I always try to give my readers a “you are there” experience by letting them see, hear, taste, feel whatever my viewpoint character is doing. Because almost all of my books are set in England my readers get a bit of a travelogue along with, hopefully, an exciting story.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Donna: Read voraciously. Write what you love to read. Hold to the dream.

PJ: What is the most fun you’ve had promoting a book?

Donna: Perhaps the most fun I’ve had in my life was at the Jane Austen Society of North America AGM in Minneapolis last fall where I launched A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER. Myhusband and I took an English Country Dancing class and the last night went to the Regency Ball. It was all my JA ball 2fantasies of stepping into a Jane Austen novel come true— and with my own Mr. Darcy.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Donna: Although I do all the electronic media things: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, blog tours. . . My favorite is still meeting readers face to face. I love speaking at writers’ conferences, book festival and book stores.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Donna: We are so fortunate to have Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise.  On May 17 I’ll be sharing a Mystery Writers’ Panel there with Jenny Milchman

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Donna: I won’t bog you down with all 43 titles, but here are my most current:

GLASTONBURY: A Novel of the Holy Grail

The Monastery Murders: A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, AN UNHOLY COMMUNION

The Lord Danvers Series: A MOST INCONVENIENT DEATH, GRAVE MATTERS, TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN, A TINCTURE OF MURDER

The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries:   THE SHADOW OF REALITY, A MIDSUMMER EVE’S NIGHTMARE, A JANE AUSTEN ENCOUNTER

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title: JaneAus

Donna: Join Elizabeth and Richard on their idyllic second honeymoon visiting the homes of their favorite author. But be warned—evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

Donna: Thank you for asking! Http://j.mp/1kjOGID

An interview with Mike Witzgall

407I’m delighted to introduce you to Mike Witzgall (if you don’t know him yet) or to share this news with those of you who’ve known him for a while. Many first met him when he and his wife Shelly handled the mock crime scenes for us at our Criminal Pursuits conferences. You know that he’s full of information and probably a few other things, and that’s he’s loads of fun. But you might not have known what a great writer he is! A very pleasant surprise. Enjoy!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

MW: Starting in 1992 I started writing technical articles about law enforcement training – specifically, SWAT and Special Operations. Since then, I have written 15 published articles and 8 SWAT training manuals. I started writing fiction about 5 years ago.

I got interested in writing fiction over a period of several years – during those years; I was a guest speaker at several mystery writer’s conferences. I spoke on everything from police shoot outs to knife and bullet wounds. I loved it! What I learned at those conferences was (a) everyone has a story to tell including me and; (b) if you are not writing your story, someone else is!  

PJ: What types of things have you written?

MW: To this point, mostly technical articles. Sentinel’s Choice is my first shot at fiction.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

MW: I’ll have to let you know one this one!

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

MW: It is and it isn’t! I love the time I spend writing and creating a story. But I was surprised at how long and in depth the editing would be.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?SC front cover

MW: Most writers ‘write’ because it’s a passion they have. Very few actually make a living at it. Since I am new to all this, I haven’t made much – but there is always tomorrow!

PJ: How did your work as a police officer prepare you or enable you to write mystery? Give an example if possible.

MW: One thing we teach rookies in the academies is that every crime committed is actually a mystery waiting to be solved. Sometimes there is an element of a thriller to it and sometimes not. Look at the Beltway Sniper incident (circa 2002). I was not remotely involved in the investigation, but as a citizen and a cop, I followed the story/investigation closely. Looking back on it, it had all the elements of murder mystery/thriller. It had the murders of innocent people, it had (in this case media induced) false leads, it had the confusion that almost all investigations have, etc. The end (the motive) was nothing like any of us thought it would be. It was about insurance!

My honest belief is that darn near every cop in America could be a mystery/thriller writer if they just took the time to do so.

PJ: Are you able to use real situations as inspiration? Can you share any with us?

MW: Almost everything that happened in the book (with the exception of the actual story line) to the protagonist happened to me or officers that I worked with at some point in my career.  Real life situational inspiration is easy to find in a law enforcement career. My best story (that I used) was when Ren and Tex are clearing a house alone. As they make entry they realize that the house is incredibly hot inside – every heating unit that can be on is turned up full blast (including the fire place, oven and space heaters). This greatly accelerated the decomposition of the murdered victim.

PJ: You and Shelly were huge assets to us when we were hosting Criminal Pursuits conferences for writers. How do you think the examination of the mock crime scenes most helped crime writers?

MW: Our hope was that we taught the writers some things about murder investigations and how difficult it is to investigate one.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

MW: Actually very poorly, but I am learning! I actually have had to write out a daily itinerary that I follow.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

MW: Getting the work finally published and out on the market!

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

MW: That things took so long. Nobody’s fault – it just took longer than I had expected.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

MW: Well, it hasn’t happened yet… but I have a book signing on February 1st that I am really pumped about. Even if only one person shows up, I’ll be jazzed.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

MW: Accuracy of location and police and investigative procedures. More than anything else, it’s a good story.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

MW: Keep going! Don’t give up.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

MW: Having a good editor, publicist and friends that will review your work and keep you on track.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

MW: Since I am still learning… I’ll have to let ya know on this.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Sentinel’s Choice – you’ll want to be in on Mike’s new career from the beginning! And do stop in Barnes & Noble in Cedar Hill TX on Saturday Feb. 1 at 2pm – there’ll be a party going on!

http://www.mikewitzgall.com

An interview with Lillian Melendez

Official Picture Lillian R. MelendezLillian R. Melendez was born in New York, and grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. Writing since childhood, she began to publish her work when she was very young. She received a Bachelors degree in English with a minor in Psychology from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. Aside from writing novels, she also continues to write and publish short stories and poetry. Lillian is a member of Mystery Writers of America.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

LM: I felt I reached success when readers told me their opinion on a novel they read. This meant that they actually read my books and were using their critical thinking skills to discuss the story. I love this!

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

LM: It took me three months to get published after I signed on with a publisher. Though, this time frame seems short, it took me five months for my manuscript to be finally accepted by a publisher from the over sixty query submissions I sent.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

LM: I create a schedule. I rarely do several different agendas in one day unless there is an important deadline that I have to meet. Promoting my book would be the focus on one day, submitting work when it’s finished is a focus on another day, and Sunday is the day when I do nothing and rest. The only thing I cannot do is schedule writing. This is the tricky part, because thoughts enters my mind when I least expect it. I have a notebook at home and use my iPhone’s note apps to write my thoughts down when I’m traveling. Then, when it’s time to write, I create the story from my notes as well as what is on my mind at that moment. I schedule my time to fit my regular 9 to 5 job, spending time with friends and family, and relaxing. I do believe that there is a time and day to do something rather than cramming different agendas all together. Life functions a lot smoother when I have a schedule and I try my best to follow it.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

LM: My second book, Auditory Viewpoint, was chosen to be entered into a book festival that had an auction event to benefit charity so I sent a signed copy. I was delighted to be a part of this.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

LM: It’s really up to readers to decide if my work sets apart from the rest. I am the writer; the creator of the story. I try to stay true to myself and my work and not care so much on what the publishing market is looking for. Readers have the final say of what they think of it through word of mouth.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

LM: When you get frustrated, take a step back and breathe. Never stop writing and consider asking other writers for advice. It’s important to get back to your creative work, because you have a talent and it would be nice to share it with the world. Enjoy the sometimes smooth and sometimes bumpy ride along the way. You cannot learn anything without trial and error. Your strengths and weaknesses are tested, but you will improve in your craft. Putting a manuscript in your draw for months shouldn’t be an option, unless you’re developing more ideas and doing revisions to submit it on a later date.

PJ:  What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

LM: Communication through one on one with a reader or in a group setting is my most effective tool. In my opinion, you can pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to promote your book with ads and book trailers, but if you don’t focus on engaging with readers about your novels, then it still feels private, like a journal, even after you publish it. You risk only having a handful of readers know about your book.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Dismantling Vindictiveness was my first book (2011)

Auditory Viewpoint is my second book (2013)

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:Auditory_Viewpoint

The only hope for survival is an experiment in perception. Auditory Viewpoint.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

LM: Readers can purchase Auditory Viewpoint on Barnes and Noble and Independent bookstores as well as major online stores such as Amazon, Books a Million, and Barnes and Noble.com. Auditory Viewpoint and Dismantling Vindictiveness are also available internationally.

PJ: Thank you for taking part in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with one thing that might surprise them about you?

Many believe writers today write solely on computers. I simply cannot do this. I have to write on paper first, and not only that, I cannot write on paper with lines on it. It simply distracts my thoughts. I always buy a sketch book from art stores to write my stories on.

An interview with Laura Dion-Jones

1 dionjones_RET_smLaura Dion-Jones is a pro-health activist, Corporate Wellness Coach (CCWC), Certified Wellness Coach (CWC), radio show host, and motivational weight loss and lifestyle speaker/writer.

Laura’s weight loss success story speaks for itself. She shed 150 pounds in 2-1/2 years by cutting white starch and sugary carbs from her diet and by making walking her daily cardio of choice. Serious walking! 

Since 1/1/2003, Laura has walked over 35,000 miles. That’s all the way around the earth at the equator. And she’s still walking daily — for the health of it. Today, she’s considered an “Elite Walker” averaging over 50 miles per week. 

Laura brings expertise and vast experience in fitness, fashion, and beauty to her coaching career. Much of her expertise is now found in her new bookCommit 2 Get Fit!

PJ: Hi Laura! How long have you been writing? 

LDJ: For as long as I can remember but never really realized I was a writer until people told me how much they loved my writer’s voice.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer? 

LDJ: Do we ever really feel successful as a writer? The more feedback I get, the more successful I feel. When you have a message that is too important not to be heard, you’ll keep writing to get it out and get noticed. A nice, big, fat book deal will help me feel more successful, that’s for sure!

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different? 

LDJ: Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect, but, like so many other things in life, it is a solitary life. I love communicating through writing almost more than anything else – except for my TV and radio shows!

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations? 

LDJ: OMG, no. I’m still working toward that kind of success. I know with the 3 books I have in the hopper, this year will definitely be MY year, however!

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed? 

LDJ: The focus is the same – more, bigger, better. 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?  

LDJ: I self-published because I wanted to get my book out fast and couldn’t wait for the traditional publishing methods – they take WAY too long.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again? 

LDJ: Yeah, be born to a richer family! Money is always an object for many of us writers and publishing and PR all cost money. What would I do differently? When I was younger, I wish I knew what I know now, but don’t we all? I’ve wasted SO much time on meaningless stuff – things that at the time seemed mountainous – really weren’t. Instead of worrying about that stuff, I wish I would’ve been writing and promoting. Now I know better.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?  

LDJ: Depends what the priorities are for each day – like lawyers, I work on the stuff that is the most pressing so somehow one has to fit it all in . . . sooner or later.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

LDJ: Changing people’s lives for the better. Making a difference in their health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. Having people come up to thank me for my words of motivation, inspiration, encouragement, what have you. Making a difference in other’s lives is what matters to me most!

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer? 

LDJ: Jealousy of “friends.” We all have a lot of frienemies out there. And rejection. Just cos someone rejects your piece doesn’t mean it’s not good. Take their feedback, fix what needs to be fixed, if anything, and resubmit elsewhere. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and improving your craft as you go. You’ll come out a winner if you do this. We constantly keep learning throughout our lives – if you think you know it all – trust me, you don’t. I constantly am taking classes and reading and learning more about everything I do. You should, too. If you’re not learning, you’re stagnating – and stagnation is the death of a writer. We always have to keep current on all sorts of stuff to be able to write.

PJ: That’s good advice! What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

LDJ: Seeing people’s faces when I give them the courage and hope they need to succeed on their new motivational weight loss, health and wellness plan. I make them believe that if I can do it, they can, too – and then I show them how. The most memorable thing? Selling people on themselves – and seeing it in their eyes when they finally “get it.” 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others? 

LDJ: My passion and message that obesity is TOTALLY preventable – and here’s how to find the secret to your own true and everlasting weight loss . . . 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet? 

LDJ: Persistence knows no failure.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you? 

LDJ: Cold calling, querying places to speak, getting the word out there.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order: 

Commit To Get Fit: Find The Secret To Your Own True And Everlasting Weight Loss. Workbook coming early Summer 2014, and more . . .

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Commit To Get Fit: Find The Secret To Your Own True And Everlasting Weight Loss – a guide to help put an end to our country’s obesity epidemic. What more is there to say? Usually once I say this, everyone wants to know more cos if they don’t need help, someone near and dear to them does.

Where can we buy it? C2GF front cover layout sm11-13-13

Amazon Kindle version

Trade paper

Other ebook versions coming this month!

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work? 

LDJ: I’m very passionate about this obesity thing – as a formerly chronic obese woman in recovery – it’s much more difficult to stay over weight and unhealthy than it is to just buckle down and get rid of your excess, unwanted weight once and for all. I did and if I can, you can, too.

An interview with Scott Craven

Scott Craven (1)Scott Craven is a member of the storytelling team, writing about Arizonans who have compelling tales to share. He’s been a Valley journalist for 28 years, starting as a police reporter at the (long departed) Phoenix Gazette. Over those years he’s also covered courts, local communities, travel and pop culture. His weekly column Ask the Pet Editor, which runs in Sunday Living, has addressed dozens of reader-submitted problems, most of them having to do with various house-training issues. At night he goes home to his Main and Accessory dog, Sandy (7-year-old Australian kelpie mix), who greets him enthusiastically because it’s dinner time.

PJ: How long have you been writing?

SC: When haven’t I been writing? My mom kept one of my earliest work, a historical piece from first grade in which I credit the Pilgrims with inventing Thanksgiving, a finding that remains controversial to this day. As far as when writing started to matter to me, it was as a sophomore in high school when I enrolled in Journalism 101 and discovered how much I loved seeing my name in print. I mean how much I love writing. I’ve been a reporter ever since, save for those few awkward years when I was an editor.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

SC: It occurred on a brisk fall day in 1979 in Colorado Springs when I woke up to my very first professional byline. The night before, in the 65th hour of my official 39-hour week (and just one hour short of earning health benefits), I’d filed a report on a high school football game. And the next morning, like magic, there it was in print. As I stared at it, I thought of the other 35,000-plus Colorado Sprints Suns that carried my name in the exact same place. I’d made it. Or so I thought. I was 21 years old with all the stupidity that comes with youth. But still, that was the first time I felt successful as a writer. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

SC: The writing life has been at least 40 hours a week, at least 48 weeks a year, and changes with each story I do. That’s the beauty of reporting, which allows you to talk to interesting people and tell their stories in compelling ways. But the author’s writing life is just as I perceived it – sitting in front of your home computer, staring at a blank page, and knowing you’ve got to start. Now. OK, now. Wait, what’s going on with Twitter? OK, now. I haven’t checked breaking news for five minutes, let’s see what’s happening in the world. OK, now. And so forth. In the midst of all the procrastinating, a book was written. How did that happen?

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

SC: How much I expected to make when I started writing Dead Jed – zero. Financial expectations met since then – one. I’m lucky to have a fulltime job that pays enough to keep up with the bills and put a little aside, so Dead Jed has never been about the money. Even as well as the book turned out, and how people have reacted to it, I do not expect to make much money on it. Certainly not enough to quit my day job. The book is not out yet so time will tell, but if I earn enough to take a trip to, say, Las Vegas (I live in the Phoenix area), I’ll be happy. And if the book really takes off, maybe I can even afford checking a bag.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

SC: Yes, the focus has definitely changed. As I worked in Dead Jed, I told only a few close friends what I was doing. I also kept it largely a secret when I found an agent, then a publisher, and finally a publishing date. But when the book landed on Amazon, I couldn’t shut up about it. I’ve shifted from “Gotta finish another chapter today” to “Love the way you cut my hair, hey, did I tell you about this book I wrote?” It’s all about the marketing.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

SC: This is my first time, and a lot longer than I thought. When it happened it was still a shock. I queried dozens of agents in batches of 20, and found one within three months. Two years passed before a publisher agreed to take a shot with Dead Jed, and the email telling me about the deal was still surprising. Not just that Dead Jed would see the light of the publishing day, but that there would me a second book, maybe even a third if things went well. More than a year has passed since then and at the time of this writing, Dead Jed is still a month away from its publication date. It’s all about patience.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

SC: I would have written Dead Jed when I was 25. But it would have been tedious, unfunny and a serious blow to English as a whole. So no, I would not have done anything differently. Well, there was that one unfortunate night when I wish I’d caught my sleepwalking son before he used my closet as a bathroom, but as far as the book, I would not do anything differently.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

SC: My job keeps me busy writing, making it difficult to do a lot of writing on the side. So at this point, Dead Jed is pretty much my only project, and thus weekends provide plenty of time to give adequate attention to all needed areas. I’m not like those authors I see on Twitter, telling everyone 140 characters at a time how busy they are morning to night, writing and editing and writing some more. I dedicate ample time to the craft, but I can break away for some quality Xbox time as well. Otherwise I’d get to a point where I was dreading to write. Some might call it laziness. I call it a vital balance.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

SC: Exciting? I’ve won a few journalism awards over the years, even in national competitions. But those don’t stick with me as much as the rewarding stories I’ve done. Like the families who adopted quadruplets that had been abused, changing lives for the better. Or the husband and father in late stages of ALS who refused to give up, using his eyes and a specially designed computer to write inspirational notes to his daughters. Or the elderly man who left his apartment each day at 3 p.m., its living room filled with photos and artifacts of his 60-year marriage, to walk to the Alzheimer’s ward and visit a wife who no longer recognized him. Those are the things I cherish as a writer.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

SC: In my reckless youth, I wrote a lengthy story about a judge who had fallen under much criticism for her views on domestic violence. And I got her first name wrong. It bothers me to this day.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

SC: Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend BookExpo America in New York to represent Dead Jed (still six months from publication when BEA started). The two most memorable things occurred in those two days. The good was when I signed in and slipped an “Author” badge over my head. The following day when I sat at a small table signing not my book, as every other author there, but a postcard emblazoned on one side with the Dead Jed cover, and on the other side was another author’s book. Fortunately, several very kind (and very skilled) fellow authors circulated through the crowd, pointing them toward the table. I probably signed 20 or cards in 30 minutes, but in an atmosphere charged with incredible literary talent, I felt rather sheepish.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

SC: As far as I know, I’ve written the only book about a 13-year-old zombie who doesn’t spend most of his undead time crashing through boarded-up windows in an effort to satisfy an appetite for human flesh, particularly brains. There are other works that take a different look at the genre, but Dead Jed turns it on its rather decayed head. More importantly, no zombie was hurt in the writing of Dead Jed. Yes, limbs were lost and reattached, but that doesn’t really hurt the undead (warning: zombie on closed course, do not attempt).

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

SC: Hang in there. It will happen. Until then, do what I’ve done. Obsessively Google your name and the book’s title every 15 minutes to see if anyone is talking about it. When the list pops up again and every entry ends with Google telling you “You’ve visited this site numerous time,” try Twitter. Then Facebook. Goodreads. Go on ask.fm to see if anyone wants to hear about your book. They won’t, but you will have knocked down another few minutes of obsessing.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

SC: The best tool for promoting Dead Jed is the same for any work, whether it’s a book or a movie or work of art. Make it interesting, compelling and damn good. I think Dead Jed meets those criteria, but if others disagree, then I will happily appear, or host a Skype chat, or wash your car if I have to. The only thing I won’t do is constantly use Twitter as a marketing device. The overuse of Twitter as a promotional tool is quickly approaching my No. 1 Pet Peeve of all time – people who snap their gum. No, the gum-snapping is pretty safe at No. 1.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

SC: Finding outlets and, once found, not exploiting them. Otherwise, I’m pretty comfortable doing anything I need to do. I did mention washing your car, right?

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

SC: Here’s a shout-out to Changing Hands in Tempe. It’s a great store to browse and hosts some of the most talented authors in the country. It also hosts lesser-known writers who have written entertaining books, but I enjoy it most for the staff’s recommendations, allowing people to discover hidden talent. And just when you thought the book-buying business could not get any better, Changing Hands is soon to open another outlet featuring beer. Beer!

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

SC: Wow, let’s see, have to think on that one. OK, as of December 3, it goes like this:

“Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie.”Dead Jed cover

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Not only would Jed give an arm and a leg to fit in at middle school, he actually can. That’s just one of the (dis)advantages of being the school’s only zombie. Jed’s pallor and his ability to hold his breath for, oh, ever, make him a target for the school bully who thinks school is no place for the undead. But even after he disarms Jed, literally, the zombie pulls himself together with some duct tape and staples, refusing to give up.

Where can we buy it?

It is available for pre-order on Amazon, bn.com, and other websites where fine middle-grade titles are sold.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

SC: Promise not to tell anyone, but many of the things that happen to Jed are autobiographical. Not losing limbs, of course, but several of the humiliating things that bring Jed down also happened to me in seventh grade. True story.

Whether you’re inclined to like zombies or not, you seriously do not want to miss this one! Pick up a copy today!