CHAT WITH EDEN BAYLEE

Eden Baylee writes literary erotica and infuses erotic elements into many of her stories. Incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture, and a deep curiosity for what turns people on, her brand of writing is both sensual and sexual.

Her latest release is a book of erotic flash fiction and poetry called HOT FLASH.

SPRING INTO SUMMER is her second collection of erotic novellas and the companion piece to her first book, FALL INTO WINTER.

Time to chat with Eden!


What is your latest book?

My latest book is Hot Flash. It’s a book of erotic short stories and poems, with two non-erotic pieces as well.


What else have you written?

I have two other books of literary erotica called Fall into Winter and Spring into Summer. Each is an anthology comprised of four novellas. Though the two books are companion pieces, the stories are distinct and cover varying levels of eroticism.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

As an indie author who writes full time, social media is a necessity in promoting myself. I’m on numerous networks because it’s important to be as connected as possible.

Having said that, striking a balance between my work and social life is essential. There are only so many hours in a day, and it’s easy to be swayed toward “chatting” on Facebook or Twitter as opposed to writing.

My favorite part of social media is meeting incredible writers, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some in person.

My least favorite part is dealing with social media ‘newbies.’ These are people who only use the medium to sell their products and treat others as if they are their own PR firm. Rudeness and the hard sell do not work in real life, and they don’t work in the virtual life either.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

I have no fear of reviews because readers are as diverse as writers. Tastes differ.

As an author, it’s important to grow a thick skin. Don’t let negative reviews affect you emotionally. If you think there is merit to what the reviewer says, i.e.: holes in the plot, bad grammar, etc., do something about it to improve on the next book. If you don’t think there’s merit to the bad review, move on. There’s no point dwelling on it.

Writers are not perfect, and there’s always room to improve. Bad reviews should never stop you from writing. Don’t take it personally.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I place a lot of importance on the design because there’s another old saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” I’m a visual person, and my initial response to a book is usually from the cover.

If the cover is poorly done, then I infer the content inside might be poorly written. This isn’t necessarily true, of course, but it’s important to have a professional appearance. It entices readers to look inside. In a less competitive market, this would not be an issue, but we all know our books are competing with millions of other books out there.

A great cover design is one way to help your book rise above the crowd.

How would you define your style of writing?

I don’t like formulaic writing. Mine is filled with original storylines, strong narratives and written in an easy style. Though my books fall in the erotica/romance genre right now, I write in many genres, including thriller, suspense, and poetry.

I don’t like to be bound by style or genre.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I’d explain patiently that it does matter, but I would never get frustrated with a reader for not writing a review. They may not feel comfortable with writing reviews for various reasons.

Ultimately, readers (who are not authors) read for pleasure. They support authors by buying their books and spreading the word if they liked what they read. It’s not their job to “promote” the author, and writing reviews is certainly not part of a reader’s mandate.

As authors, it’s good to encourage reviews but never to coerce them from readers.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in Toronto, Canada now. I’d love to live in New York City if I could afford to.

London, England is also a favorite.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty and an adventurous spirit. Though my friends may not do everything I want to do, they are always open-minded to me doing it—especially if I make a fool of myself, and they can say “I told you so!”

What makes you angry?

People who are rude, mean, insincere, intolerant, uncaring.

What music soothes your soul?

I love old blues and jazz – Nina Simone, Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker. I’m also a fan of virtuoso guitar and listen to Jeff Beck and Pink Floyd a lot.

Many thanks for inviting me to your chateau, Lisette. It was a pleasure to be here,

eden

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CHAT WITH DAN McNEIL

Dan McNeil was born in Toronto, but raised in Ottawa.  He is an author and a video editor, spending 24 years at CHRO TV (now CTV 2) in Ottawa and the last 4 years as a freelancer at Canada Post in the video department.  His first book, The Judas Apocalypse was published in 2008. It was only natural that his love of writing and music would lead him to pen his latest, Can’t Buy Me Love, a lighthearted romp about a heist during the Beatles’ first visit to the United States in 1964. 

Time to chat with Dan!

What is your latest book?

It’s called Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s the story of Sonny Carter, an aging bank robber just recently released from prison in 1964 after a 25-year stretch for bank robbery. Hard-nosed and unrepentant, Sonny is determined to finish what he started back in ’39: knocking over New York City’s prestigious Hudson National Bank and Trust Company. It won’t be easy because banks are a whole lot tougher than they used to be, and the members of his old gang are just about ready for the retirement home. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the man responsible for Sonny’s jail stretch is now the president of the Hudson. This time, however, Sonny has a plan that just might prove to be foolproof, thanks to two unlikely sources: a sexy bank employee with secrets and a shady past, and the four unsuspecting mop tops from Liverpool about to make their historic American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s my second novel and published by Pulse.

What else have you written?

My first novel, The Judas Apocalypse was published in 2008 by I Publish Press. It’s about Dr. Gerhard Denninger, a German archeologist who is approached by infamous Grail seeker Otto Rahn at the outset of the Second World War. Rahn tells him a fantastic story of the Knights Templar, a church scandal and the lost treasure of the Cathars. When Rahn disappears, Denninger finds himself in possession of a long-buried manuscript that is the key to finding the famous treasure. During his hunt for the treasure, Denninger is captured by a group of American soldiers separated from their company just after the D-Day landings. Denninger, with the help of his unwelcome accomplices, continues his quest for the secret of the Cathar treasure. As you can tell, I love historical settings.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Happens all the time. For instance, in this book, I have a character named Genevieve, who is the assistant to the executive producer of the Ed Sullivan show. I initially envisioned her as a cute and shy French Canadian. As the story moved forward, I found myself toughening her up somewhat as she becomes more frustrated with her boss. That toughened up personality begins to shine through, usually couched in rough Quebecois invective. I’m sure this happens with every writer, but I find that characters tend to take on a life of their own. Very often it seems that instead of creating situations for them, I feel like I’m following them around, chronicling what they’re doing.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I think so, because you have to know where you’re going. It’s a journey, right? You can take as many detours as you want, but ultimately you need to know your destination. You need to know where your characters are going to end up so you can get them there safe and sound (not sure where these travel analogies are coming from). As far as titles go, I never know what it’ll be until I’m finished (sometimes even months later). I went through 4 or 5 titles before I settled on Can’t Buy Me Love.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

As I finish each chapter, I’ll read it over and see how it flows. There may be some issues with word or phrase repetition but I’ll wait until I’ve actually finished the book before I do any major editing. If anything drags, no matter how much I might like it, it’s gone. Once that’s done, I have a copy editor (fellow author and good friend Selena Robins) do the real red pencil stuff. Having a great copy editor is key. Selena did an excellent job with CBML and I believe that it’s because of her whipping the book into shape that enabled me to get my deal.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I have a very good friend of mine (Ziyada Callender) who read every chapter as I wrote them. She really enjoyed my first book so when I mentioned I was thinking of writing a second one, she was exceptionally enthusiastic. At that time I wasn’t sure I wanted to even write another book, especially so soon after the first one but it was that enthusiasm that spurred me on to finish it. Her passion and affection for the story and in particular the characters told me that I was on the right track. I also had other friends of mine (who tend to be brutally honest and not afraid to say how terrible things are) read the manuscript as well.  Their positive reaction was terrific reinforcement.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I like to write music. My cousin, Steve Casey and I used to write pop songs together. We wrote and recorded two CDs of original songs – no hits unfortunately, but we did manage to win a number of songwriting contests here in Canada and in the US. We were once picked by Canadian Musician magazine as one of Canada’s best unsigned acts and we also won the Nashville Songwriters Association’s 2002 songwriting competition. That was pretty cool.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I certainly never thought that I was born to write. I’ve always had ideas for books, but writing seemed to be something other people did. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I decided I’d give it a try. When I had finished my first book, I printed it out and put it on my shelf. There, I did it – I wrote a book. I had no intention of trying to get it published. I just wanted to see if I could do it, to satisfy myself really. It wasn’t until a friend of mine insisted that I try to get it published. In retrospect, it was a good thing he did. If I hadn’t had that first one published I probably wouldn’t have written this one.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Definitely an early bird. I find that I work better first thing in the morning. I got into the habit of getting up an hour earlier than my usual time when I started writing because it was quiet and easier to get things done. The only “must haves” I need are an absence of phone calls and a cup of coffee.

How would you define your style of writing?

I’m not sure how I’d define it. I’d say it’s pretty straightforward and uncluttered, I guess.  I always try to follow Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, especially number 10 – “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I never want to be boring – and I hope I’m not.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

I’m not a traveler at all. Don’t like airports and I really abhor long drives. If I have to travel, I’d pick a train. There’s something about the sound of the wheels that I find relaxing – it always makes “Rhapsody in Blue” pop into my head.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Favorite food – hickory smoked ribs with a tangy BBQ sauce. I could eat ‘em every night. My least favorite food is the turnip. It is the most loathsome and repulsive thing I’ve ever had. If I think about them for anything longer than 20 seconds, I’ll throw up (just writing about them is enough to make me queasy).

What makes you angry?

Terrible drivers – It seems like no one knows how to merge or use their turn signals in this city. It’s inexcusable, really. The crap factor is right off the scale. I think if I ever struck it rich I wouldn’t buy an expensive car. I’d just take cabs everywhere or hire a limo so I wouldn’t have to put up with the truly appalling driving here.

What music soothes your soul?

Obviously I’m a Beatles fan. I’m also a huge Neil Finn/Crowded House fan too, probably because Crowded House is a very Beatlesque band. I also believe Neil Finn is the best pop songwriter living today. I’m a prog rock nut as well – Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Supertramp – when I was younger I learned to play keyboards by putting on their records and playing along with them. I like to say Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies from Supertramp taught me how to play piano.  My vinyl version of “Crime of the Century” is virtually unplayable now. I think I wore out the grooves.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

My all time favorite film is American Graffiti. I remember going to see it back in ’73 with my family because the movie I wanted to see, The Sting, was sold out. I was pretty ticked off because of that so when my dad decided to take us to American Graffiti instead, I was determined to hate it. As it turned out, it was brilliant. I wound up seeing it about five or six times on that initial run. I’ve watched it dozens of times since then. It’s still great. The Godfather, Casablanca, and Stalag 17 are close behind it. Favorite book? Catcher in the Rye. Cliché? Probably, but I don’t care – I love it.

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PROMOTIONAL TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Reaching Out to Readers, by Jaidis Shaw

I’m extremely honored to have author and publicist Jaidis Shaw to present the first guest blog at Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau. Jaidis is not only multi-talented at all that she does, but she is one of the nicest, most professional, and most competent professionals that I have dealt with in the writing world.

You can read Jaidis’ complete bio at the end of her blog and enter to win a one-week book tour from Jaidis, which can be claimed any time from February to July, 2013. And now:

PROMOTIONAL TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Reaching Out to Readers,

by Jaidis Shaw

      You’ve poured sweat, grumbled in frustration, shed the tears, and ended with one heck of an awesome happy dance. I am, of course, talking about the moments leading up to seeing your hard work turned into a novel that is now published and available for the world to see. For debut authors, that one moment when you see your book cover on Amazon is forever seared into your brain. You are able to float on your euphoric high for days, sometimes even weeks. All of your friends and family have shown their support by purchasing a copy of your book. Then the inevitable happens. Your sales start declining, you haven’t seen a new review in days (no matter how often you refresh the page), your breathing becomes labored, and you’re positive that your heart is showing signs of cardiac arrest. A wave of self-doubt crashes over you and all of the positive comments you’ve received so far are overshadowed by the looming question: Why isn’t my book selling?

If you’re an author and are still trying to navigate the depths of the self-publishing world, you may be struggling with how to promote your book. Where do I start? Do I have to have an agent? Should I have tried finding a publisher to pick up my novel rather than self-publish? It is only natural to doubt our decisions, especially when we are feeling lost and confused. If you did go the self-publishing route, or even if you just want to do your part to promote your work, I’m here to tell you that promoting your book isn’t as daunting as it may appear. Maybe all you need is a little nudge in the right direction.

Most of the tips today say that the ultimate goal for authors is to sell books. Well I do agree that is a good goal to have, I disagree with it being the “ultimate” goal. The reason being is that I believe the most important goal for authors is to have people reading their books. After all, if nobody is reading your book, it isn’t going to keep selling. So what is a good place to start? For the sake of time, let us assume that you have already started making your mark on social media platforms by doing things like creating a Facebook Fan Page, joining Twitter, and having a blog or website. So, before the launch and release parties, before the book tours, it is important to reach out to bloggers and book reviewers.  I’ve put together a list of tips and topics that I believe are important to remember while reaching out to potential reviewers … and just remember … you want them to be “Reading” your book.

      Reviewers: If you are just now stepping into the book world, you may not be aware of how numerous book reviewers are these days. But with a simple search on sites like Goodreads, BookBlogs, or even Google, you will have a list of reviewers at your fingertips. If you happen to know a member of the reviewer community, another option is to reach out to them. Nine times out of ten, they will know of other bloggers that are open to receiving review requests. Several lists have been compiled of book blogs that serve as a wonderful starting point for gathering potential reviewers.

      Email: It is important to have an email that is set up properly. This should probably go without saying but it is one of the main issues that I see repeatedly. I feature between three to five authors a week on my blog and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when I’m trying to find the author’s materials and have a hard time locating them because their email starts with something random like Bestselling_Author_1 or CrazyWriter4Books. Not only does having an email like that make more work for the blogger/reviewer but is less likely to be remembered. It is best to pick something straightforward and easy to memorize; more specifically your name. For example, my email is JaidisShaw@yahoo.com. Anyone who is looking to email me, feature me, etc simply has to begin typing my name and there it is.

Another issue I see authors guilty of is loading their email signatures down with tons of links and images. It is best to keep all graphics out of your signature. The main reason I think this is important is because the graphics tend to show up as attachments; I know that most times they do for me in Yahoo. When I am searching through for an interview for example, I am looking for the paperclip icon that indicates that email has an attachment and it wastes time having to go through the ones that only have graphics in the signature. Simply having your name, email, blog/website URL, and link to your Amazon Author Page is more than sufficient.

      Ask: If you are still a little hesitant on emailing a potential reviewer, or just want to test the waters first, simply ask if anyone would like to provide an honest review of your book. Send out a tweet, post a status update on Facebook, or even write a blog post about it. It really is as easy as saying “Would anyone be interested in receiving a free eBook copy of my book in exchange for an honest review?”  You will almost always have a few takers and people that will share your post to help spread the word.

      Details: You may be wondering what details to include in your initial email to reviewers. There are two parts to this one. The first part is to attach a media kit. These are a simple way to organize and keep track of all your important details. You can use a template for these so once you have the information gathered; all you have to do is attach it to your email request. Some details that should always appear in your media kit are the following: author photo and bio, book cover and synopsis, a short PG-13 excerpt (300 – 500 words), and links to where you and the book can be found (Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads).

The second part is what to include in the body of the email. After your personal opening and initial request, it is nice to provide them with the book’s details including synopsis, genre, total word count, publication date, publisher, giveaway details (discussed later) and any content warnings or age restrictions that the book may contain. You do not need to include your author bio and links (unless you want to) since they appear in the media kit. Your email should focus on the book and not you as an author because the reviewer isn’t judging you as a person, but your book.

Do not include the book you want reviewed! You may think that this helps the process move along faster when in actuality it halts the process and results in you sending out books that will likely never be read. Most unsolicited books may be downloaded for future use but if they didn’t agree to review it, you’ll be lucky to hear back from them. In fact, most blogs have a policy on unsolicited books that are received, a subject I’ll be covering in the next tip.

      Instructions: For the love of books, please follow the instructions for each individual blogger! Each reviewer has their own way of doing things: specific genres they like, what information they include in their reviews/posts, formats accepted for review, etc. With so many requests being received, they will almost always give priority to those who follow the instructions and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity because you didn’t take time to find out what they want/like.

      No Bulk Requests: I know that it may be tedious to email reviewers individually but it is a necessity. If you want a reviewer to take time out of their schedule to give your book an honest review, the least you can do it take an extra minute to personalize an email to them. Don’t open your email with a simple “Hey,” “Dear To Whom It May Concern,” or with the blog’s title. Show the blogger some courtesy and that you are reaching out to them as an individual. Don’t know their name? Simply visit the blog in question and look on the “About” page. Most have a name that they go by and if they do, use that. If absolutely no name can be found, then you may have to address them by their blog title (but only as a last resort).

      Giveaways: Everyone loves a great giveaway! Featured author posts or reviews posted on blogs almost always receive more traffic when there is a giveaway involved. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant: a copy of your book, swag, or electronic Amazon Gift Card for example. Simply let the reviewer/blogger know in your initial request that you are willing to offer a giveaway to their readers if they’d like. Other than bringing in more traffic, another great thing giveaways help with is bringing you new followers. Most of the time entries for the giveaway will be tasks like following you on Twitter or liking you on Facebook. If you’re offering a copy of your book, it will potentially translate into another review, which is always a good thing – whether it is good or bad.

So there you have it, my “Reading” tips to promoting your book. I hope they will help eliminate some of the confusion when it comes to getting your book into the hands of readers. I am currently in the process of making a series of Vlogs that will expand on the topics above and give some insight to other aspects of marketing your book. You may find yourself wondering why I am willing to share tips when I offer my promotional services through Juniper Grove Book Solutions. The answer is simple. I believe that all authors should have a basic idea of what to do to help them if they want to take matters into their own hands. Everyone doesn’t have the resources to hire help to have the work done for them. Or maybe you just don’t want to trust your novel in the hands of someone other than yourself. Whatever the case may be, you shouldn’t feel like there are no options available for you because with enough work and dedication, you can get your book out there to be enjoyed by readers.

If you have any questions, I am always available and happy to help so please feel free to send a note my way.

Jaidis Shaw currently resides in a small town located in South Carolina with her husband and a beautiful daughter. With a passion for reading, Jaidis can always be found surrounded by books and dreaming of new stories. She enjoys challenging herself by writing in different genres and currently has several projects in the works.

When not reading or writing, Jaidis maintains her blog Juniper Grove and helps promote her fellow authors. In addition to her free promotion services, she uses her experience in publicity to offer freelance author services through Juniper Grove Book Solutions.

Jaidis released her debut novel Destiny Awaits in April 2011. In addition to her novel, she currently has two short stories published with Wicked East Press. You can read her latest story ‘Blind Justice’ in the Wicked Bag of Suspense Tales anthology – now available on Kindle!

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TO WIN A ONE-WEEK BOOK TOUR FROM JAIDIS (to be claimed any time from February to July 2013), please leave a comment below. If you would just like to leave a comment (always appreciated) and don’t want to enter to win, just put #notentering at the end of your post! GOOD LUCK TO ALL! A winner will be selected on January 1, 2013.

CHAT WITH C.A. KUNZ

The mom and son author duo, C.A. Kunz, thoroughly enjoys writing about things that go bump in the night and futuristic action-packed romances while drinking massive amounts of English breakfast tea and Starbucks coffee.

Time to chat with C.A. Kunz!

What is your latest book?

Carol and Adam: The Modified, a young adult Dystopian novel.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Carol and Adam: Yes, it is book one of The Biotics Trilogy

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Carol and Adam: What would YOU sacrifice?

What else have you written?

Carol and Adam: We’ve written the first two books in our middle grade/young adult paranormal series, The Childe. Our first book, The Childe, was published in March 2011 and the sequel, Dark Days, was published February 2012.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

Carol and Adam: That we’re not hard workers! Our first novel took us nine months to write. Then we had it edited, paid an experienced graphic designer to do our cover, and finally a year after we started, we published it. We do all the leg work and marketing to get our books out to the public. Though it’s hard work, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and get a certain sense of satisfaction that our books are totally ours from cover to cover.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it?

Carol and Adam: Yes, and since there are two of us that write the book, we not only have to know how the book will end, but we also need to have a concrete outline that we work from. If we didn’t, we’d probably end up with two completely different novels that don’t mesh. The title? Yes, because the title of the book tends to encompass the description of our book in our opinion.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Carol and Adam: Our first book, The Childe, was a learning experience with many, many hours of editing throughout the whole novel. I have an office with a couch and a recliner and Adam and I have spent up to eleven hours a day editing while reading the story out loud. From what we learned from our first book, our second and third books were much easier.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Carol and Adam: Don’t give up! Not everyone is going to like, or even love your book, and there are some really mean-spirited people who will try to tear you down. Ignore them. We know it’s hard, but you just have to do it. Look for people who will support you, but will also give you constructive criticism.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Carol and Adam: Carol mainly attends the social media since Adam works full-time. She’s met some AWESOME people online, and when we go to events and book fairs we meet them in person and have an amazing time. It’s definitely time-consuming and hours fly by while online, but the rewards are well worth it!

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft?

Carol and Adam: We wait until our first draft is completely finished, then we give it to five or six people who read all different genres.  Can you elaborate? After their constructive criticism, we edit some more and when we feel like we have reached a point where it’s time for a professional editor to handle it!

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

Carol: I live in Florida but ideally I would love to live in England. My mum is English and my dad is American. I spent 15 years of my young life in England and I miss it.

Adam: I currently live in Orlando, Florida, but if I had to move to another place it would have to be New Zealand because it’s so darn beautiful there.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Carol:  I love the first three, but I’m not a fan of boats. The Titanic movie is a horror movie for me. My worst fear is to be out in the middle of the ocean with no hope in sight.

Adam: I’d have to say trains…mainly due to my love of Harry Potter.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Carol: Bread, any kind of bread is my comfort food.  Mushrooms! Not into eating fungus.

Adam: Chips and queso are definitely my favorite comfort foods, and I have to agree with my mom and say that mushrooms are absolutely my least favorite.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

Carol: Finding out I was pregnant with Adam! He’s the best stomach flu I ever had!

Adam: Getting a four-star review for our first novel, The Childe, in the magazine RT Book Reviews.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Carol: Healthy Children.

Adam: A loving family.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Carol: Honesty and kindness. I strongly dislike catty and mean people. I would never intentionally hurt others feelings and I want to be with people who feel the same way.

Adam: I’d have to say honesty, loyalty, and positivity.

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CHAT WITH JOEL BLAINE KIRKPATRICK

When not reading, he is writing. When not writing, he is reading. Author Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick lives with his lovely wife and their two boys in Southwest Colorado.
A novelist with five published works—only four of his books are available as e-books.

Being a fierce supporter of independent and self-publishing, Joel straddles the fence quite well in the industry. He is the current Senior Acquisitions Editor for JournalStone Publishing, and is the first contact for authors wishing to be published in the traditional modes.

Time to chat with Joel!

What is your latest book?

When America Slew Her King. It is an alternative history, so plausible that readers might wonder what parts I really made up. The only bit of fiction in it, is that none of it happened. I rewound reality and played it differently from one instant of madness.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No.

What else have you written?

Four other books…but, I can’t remember what they were.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That one of us, somewhere, is earning huge money on pure trash. Only traditional publishing can pull that off. Indies are ordinary people, writing exciting books between the mundane episodes of daily life.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

On every page. I don’t script my characters. They lead me and I only listen and type.

One character, in my fourth book, did something so unexpectedly that it took me several minutes to write the sentence. I just sat in silence trying to find the words. I’m still shocked at that scene every time I read it.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the sounds in my head. It’s a madness that is so comforting. I get to hallucinate and write it all down. You would think that would lead me to write naughty shower scenes into every book…but, I’m too old for that nonsense.

What I like the very least, is the continuous toil and drudge after the book is written. That is the real work. But, I’m too old for that nonsense, too.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I know which direction to go, but endings have changed. My first novel did that to me—demanded a different ending than I wanted. It’s a horrible, boring book now and I love it.

Only my third book ended according to plan. That was tougher than I expected…getting all the plot to work properly. There might be three extra chapters in Breathing into Stone, because the conclusion had to be supported properly.

I always know the title of the book before the second page is written. Titles never change.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I don’t edit. Music fans have to deal with Bob Dylan’s voice; readers have to deal with my writing. Traditional publishing has edited all the life out of books for a generation. That’s why they are suffering. An editor would make me sound a pompous shit, and I can do that on my own.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Shut up and write the book. When you are done, get to work and learn something.

Look at it this way—no one ever learned to swim without getting in the water. Until you have finished the book, you haven’t done a thing. Forget every expert. They are not writing your book. Forget the readers…half of them will hate it anyway and you can’t write for them. Write for yourself.  Just get it done.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I had no clue at first, but had three complete books in my hands before starting to even think of publishing them. Every book was queried out to agents over two hundred times. That led to some very interesting conversations with people in the know, and I learned what a mess that industry has become. Social media got my attention only because there were thousands of writers out there just like me. I went online to converse and learn—and stayed. I’m savvy, but I’m also lazy and loathe self-promotion.

The best thing that happened for me was discovering BestsellerBound.com. That is hands-down the finest author-centered forum on the web. There is some extraordinary talent collected there. Of all the members, I’m really the only boorish jerk.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

That question should pull a trailer behind, just for the answer.  I do not choose what to read now. That is both the best, and the worst thing about reading. In eighteen months, I’ve read 300 different authors.  JournalStone Publishing, in San Francisco, employs me as their Senior Acquisitions Editor. That means every book submission comes to my Outlook inbox.

I read Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult…with smatterings of Paranormal and Mystery. Sometimes it overloads my senses. Only so many zombies a week will fit into my brain.

When I do chose…I turn to books like yours. Crooked Moon, or Squalor, New Mexico. I can read you when I’m tired of reading.

One thing is fact: I only read Indie books now and love them.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

Tons of research for Harmony’s Passing. I pulled up two monitors on my PC and had star charts, orbital calculators and human anatomy websites opened the whole time. The internet teaches me as I write.

There was only a smattering of research for books two and three, just to get the story elements right. Shared, my fourth novel, actually went interviewing. Nearly a hundred people answered my questions about their spiritual beliefs. From their experiences, I built my characters. That book has earned some strong reaction, and plays with issues of faith and character. I did not play nice.

When America Slew Her King took about four hours research for every hour of writing. There isn’t a single fictional character in the book. Even the sailing ships were real. You can Google your way through the whole thing. I even include an enigmatic white horse in the story, and you won’t believe who owned it, or why it has its own place in our history.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

Do I really write in my bathrobe?  Yes. (but, not right this moment. J)

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

Only with my fifth novel did I let anyone know about the project. About a dozen people read the first half of that manuscript. Normally, I don’t share until I’ve formatted a book for publication. When America Slew Her King was different. To me, the idea of Ben Franklin as a murderer was something delicate and not easily written. Early reaction was crucial to convincing me to complete the project. It is a book that readers might hate in the first page. The whole story is complete in the first one hundred eleven words. The rest of the novel is reaction to those first paragraphs. Four of my beta readers sent back the draft, refusing to read it. They have never said why.

I also had to share it, because the whole thing is an experiment. WASHK only exists in hardbound. It will never be available to the public in eBook or paperback. Early reactions to the story helped me decide that it can survive as a hardbound-only book.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

A few reviewers have bothered to explain how they would have written my stories. I always find that amusing, and pointless. Caraliza confuses readers. About two-thirds of them have disliked the modern half of the story, preferring the lyrical, historical language of the early 1900s that I employ in the early chapters. Some readers believe it was an accident—that I couldn’t have planned the two time periods to sound different from one another.

There is a general consensus of my works, finally. Readers are telling me that I write beautifully, stupidly.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I’ve played with a couple of short stories. One is really almost flash-fiction. My problem is only that I never get brief ideas…

Someday, I shall write a play (because of you), and I shall write a book that my wife won’t write. It will be based on one of her nightmares, and she does not want to go there to put the words on a page.

My two short stories can be found here, and here.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I was born to talk. Writing shuts me up.

My first book was only a reaction to a devastating, personal situation. I turned all my despair into that text, and survived the event. (…the book AND the personal disaster.)

I truly should have begun writing twenty years ago. I’d have eighty books in print.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I love writing blurbs. Other people have used blurbs I wrote for their books. That is not difficult at all. But then, I love writing reviews. Those are easy, too.

Now, after saying that, I must offer this as a professional reader for a publishing company. A synopsis is not the text on the back cover of the book; a common misconception. The text on the back cover of the book is a marketing invention of the last hundred years. Authors don’t write them—a committee from marketing writes them. When a book blurb is poorly written, it is the publisher’s fault.

A synopsis is not for public consumption. They exist only for promotion to agents or publishers.  If your synopsis is poorly written, YOU have fallen flat on your text. It is not the book’s fault… it is not the editor’s fault…it is not the character’s fault.

When an author get the synopsis wrong….it would have been better they had left it off entirely. (Extend that bit of advice to prologues as well. If they are not perfect—rip them out of the text.)

Too many authors write a synopsis as though they were the voice-over guy for Hollywood summer movies…

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

The history of a life-long slave. I discovered him while writing When America Slew Her King.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

Settle for being an author first. Complete a book without a plan to get it into print. Expectations are only a prison, and your book might die while you try to decide how it should exist later.

Don’t try too hard. Let your writing come naturally. Readers can instantly spot a writer who is trying to create by the rules.

Write first. Send it out to everyone for reaction. Publish it yourself. Publishers only want to know if you can earn them money. Prove to them you can, by pocketing all of it yourself first.

Here is something else to consider. No publisher will have your book on the shelves in less than about nine months. (Longer, if they are already booked up with other projects.) Why waste all that time?

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

My books sell when I leave them alone. I’m boring. My books are not.

Oh, Okay… I own six websites. I have three Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages. I’m on a dozen social sites and Pinterest. I’ve run ads on Facebook (fair response), Google Books (no response). All of my books are in one small town library, and those folks love them.

I don’t have a clue how to sell books, except by handing someone the actual printed copy. THAT sells books. One of my books is in a bookstore in The Netherlands.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

I am proud of my latest book. It might be my finest work yet. But, I love a few of my characters, dearly. Anoria, from Breathing into Stone, is so real to me I can hear her voice.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Ignore them. No author ever printed has been free of negative reviews. Nowadays, they say more about the reviewer than they do about the book. Amazon seems to attract all the snotty twelve-year old book trolls. If you are too sensitive for bad reviews, find a less dangerous hobby than writing—like alligator wrestling.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

For every ebook sold, I’ve given away 100. I infrequently give away prints books, because I’ve never had the budget to keep a large stock. Giveaways work, though. Do it, or you will never be read.

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

No. I’ve not heard from anyone who was satisfied with their results. Also, I think Amazon should have its nuts smashed for demanding that authors remove their books from other retailers while enrolled in the KDP. While we are at it, let’s remind folks that Amazon is only a store. They are not a publishing company. They sell pet supplies and garden tools online for crapsake. We treat them like they are leading publishing, when they are only a retail monster without any brains. Amazon is to publishing what combs are to hair color.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Let’s see… I sleep four hours each night. While the house is asleep, I read. I’ve not written anything in half a year. But, I adore coffee and candy. I also love to sit for hours with headphones on, writing. The music has to be instrumental. I cannot block vocals out of my concentration, and I can’t read or write while someone is singing or speaking.

Oddly, I can do both during a Godzilla movie.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

Very good question. I love good book covers. Two of mine are beautiful, and I didn’t make the images, but hired them both. However, my last novel has no cover art, except for online promotion. It is a plain, blue linen cover, with only the title on the spine. One hundred years ago, books didn’t need splashy, printed covers. I wish they didn’t now.



Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing. Any predictions about the future?

Small-press publishers will remake the industry. A couple of the Big Six will do a phenomenal amount of corporate expansion, buying up small presses to try and stave off their own death. Big Traditional Publishing has doomed itself to mediocrity and irrelevance. Ebooks will continue to expand, but never overtake printed books.

Book agents…are toast. Their livelihood and usefulness has dried up.

How would you define your style of writing?

I am the elephant in the rowboat. Get in with me, and you won’t have much say in the results.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

At best, a review is a get well card to an author with a broken heart. But, reviews are half trash. Say you like the book, or disliked the book, and then stop saying anything.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

You were—once— here;

you couldn’t be.

You—now—are memory;

you shouldn’t be.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

Well, I’m in Durango, Colorado. We chose to be here for our kids, and because this is a beautiful, stress-free place to live. (if you can tolerate the 50% of the population with opposite political views from yours. They are such nitwits.)

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Tall sailing ships. I was born four hundred years too late. But, we have a Narrow Gage Steam Train in Durango, and I adore that thing.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
I love to eat. ANYTHING. I don’t give a hoot about nutrition. When you stop eating…you die.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Gather proof that a few famous people are not worth their public adoration.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

My two sons. I had cancer once, and those boys were not supposed to be here.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

The woman who married me.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

Yes. I had a manager once who was a mean practical joker. We had his wife call him to say his garage was on fire one day and he nearly drove all the way home before realizing he didn’t have a garage.

I’ve always been the butt of little gags, cause I blush bright crimson when embarrassed.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Honesty, and common sense.

Care to brag about your family?

They haven’t put me away yet. That makes them wonderful.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I wish I could play a musical instrument. It hurts me that I was born without any skill in that area. Don’t suggest that I try. I have.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

Hated school. Every year of it. My sixth grade teacher was a fine fellow, and made that year less hell than the others were.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I seem to be able to put out street lamps by driving past them.

What makes you angry?

Dirty socks on the floor.

What music soothes your soul?

Traditional Oriental music, Chinese or Japanese. Tibetan Throat Singing is something very special. If the tune is a thousand years old, and played on the same instruments, I’ll probably love it.
Sure do love Bossa Nova too, though.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

Books. And a shower.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Crap! I have to say Fearless Vampire Killers. But, Fiddler on the Roof comes in at a very close second.

My favorite book is Aztec, by Gary Jennings.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

Fantastic Voyage. For some reason, that film creeped me out.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Dirty socks on the floor. Again.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

1. Listen more than we speak.
2. Expect less from everyone.
3. Look in the mirror more often, to see what a true hypocrite looks like.

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CHAT WITH MARIA SAVVA

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in multiple genres.

Time to chat with Maria!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Haunted. It’s my fifth novel, a psychological thriller/paranormal suspense novel. I hadn’t written a novel this dark before, so it’s new territory for me, but it seems to be quite a popular one so far. At least three readers have told me that they’ve been unable to put it down and have read it in one sitting. That’s a massive compliment. I always envy people who can read so fast. I was moving more towards the paranormal genre with my novel, The Dream, which includes an element of time travel and also a ghost. If Haunted does prove to be popular, I may consider writing more dark fiction, although having said that, I promised myself I would write a happy novel next because Haunted was so difficult to write, emotionally.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I never know the ending of a book until I get there. Even if I plan an ending, it never turns out that way. With Haunted, for example, I started off knowing I wanted to write a book about how crime affects innocent victims’ families, but also how it affects the perpetrator. I started off writing it intending to show three different crimes and have them linked in some way. The original title was 3 Crimes. I began writing Nigel’s story and it took on a life of its own. The story developed and became a novel.

As for the title, I go through three or four titles while I’m writing the book, and then reflect on the story at the end and pick a title that suits the finished story. Haunted was called Aftermath for a while, but I settled on Haunted because of the paranormal element and I think it fits.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I usually (maybe because I am mad) write the first draft with a pen and paper. I then edit the story as I am typing it up on the computer. I go through at least 10 edits before I am happy with the finished product. I find on each reread there are things that jump out at you that you had completely missed on the previous reading. It’s so important for writers to make sure they read and reread the book until they are happy with it. You usually know when you are nearly finished editing when you look and feel like a zombie, and could quite happily throw your computer out of the window. Who said writing was easy?

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Heaps and heaps of advice. In fact I could probably write a book about it. In my 15 or so years as a writer I have made every mistake known to man. I could help authors avoid some of those. However, making mistakes is a good thing as it’s the only way you learn. The most important advice I can think of off the top of my head is DO NOT publish your book without getting it professionally edited. When you are starting out as an author you simply do not have the tools to edit the book yourself. Furthermore, it is much more difficult to spot errors in your own work than it is to spot it in the work of others.

Even after editing, make sure you have as many beta readers as possible, preferably people who will give you an honest opinion of the book.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I write short stories, poems when I am inspired, and song lyrics. I have published a few short story collections, and some of my other short stories appear in the BestsellerBound Short Story Anthologies. I haven’t done much with my poetry, probably because I don’t see myself as knowledgeable enough about poetry and feel like a bit of a fraud. I did once enter a poem into a competition and never heard back, so I took this to mean I’m right about me being a crap poet. Who knows, I may find some more confidence later on and publish a few of them. As for the song lyrics, I’ve always written them with the intention of adding music to them at a later date, but have never done that either. Maybe because if I tried, it would shatter the illusion that I have of myself as a fantastic song writer, and would make me realise that I am not destined to be the next big thing in music. I always like to have an unrealistic dream to fall back on.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I was born to tell stories, you can ask my long-suffering younger sister about that. I used to keep her up until the middle of the night telling stories that I would make up. Reading was an addiction for me when I was young and due to this love of the written word, I always had a dream that I would one day write that bestselling novel. I wanted to emulate what my heroes had done. As a child, I used to watch films that were based on novels and fantasise about my own novels being made into films. Writing is now an addiction, and like any drug it’s a hard habit to break. I started writing my first novel in 1997, but before that I always wrote short stories, poems, song lyrics. My earliest writing would have been a comic series that I made up where my main character was a monster named Shag (that was long before the meaning of that word became a bit rude – or at least, I didn’t know it was rude). I used to draw pictures for the comic and write the stories. That was back in the ‘70s, unfortunately, I never kept any of those. When I was in my pre-teens and teens, I used to ‘write’ songs, although this was more me and my Casio organ, and me making up the lyrics as I went along. I wrote short stories at school and always enjoyed creative writing. I suppose I was bound to end up in some kind of job that involved the written word. I studied Law which involves a lot of reading.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

Maybe I would write my memoirs. But I won’t do that until I’m at least in my sixties or older. I think it’s always good to have a lot of life experience under your belt before tackling writing an autobiography, unless it’s something written about a specific important event or something about you and your life that is different to other people’s lives. I quite like reading memoirs as I think we can learn a lot from each other, and unfortunately people don’t listen much to other people anymore because everyone has busy lives. Sitting down and reading an autobiography is like paying attention to one person and listening to what they have to say about what they’ve learned and experienced.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

I like author Darcia Helle’s tip best, she says: ‘Don’t read reviews’. I have heard that advice from others before as well, and you know, it makes a lot of sense. Reviews are after all one person’s opinion. Not everyone is going to like our writing, let’s face it, not everyone is going to like us as people. That’s life. I think the quandary is that reviews are needed in order for an author to gain a following – good and bad reviews- so we tend to obsess over them a bit too much. A tip for handling a negative review is to ignore it. I have a hard time with this but am finding it easier to restrain myself lately. Of course we love our books, but we need to take a step back. The worst thing an author can do is think that his or her own book is perfect. You need to be open to criticism; that is part of growing and becoming a better writer. I have always listened to every negative comment, and after crying for a few days I have asked myself how I can use that to make my next book even better. I will continue to do the same thing.

Writing is a learning process; I am learning new things every day. Contained in most negative reviews will be lovely gifts from the reviewer as to how we can improve ourselves as writers. If we ignore that we are doing ourselves a disservice. Remember, reviewers read a lot of books, other people will probably be thinking the same things about your book; don’t shoot the messenger. Sometimes you should take note of the things said in a review and use it to help you. Of course there are the nasty 1 star reviews written by nasty people. You can pretty much ignore those. Another tip is to go to your favourite author’s Amazon page and take a look at the reviews. There will be 1 star and 5 star reviews, which just proves that what some people love other people hate. I also heard recently that there is a saying that one third of the audience will hate you, one third will love you, and one third will be indifferent. So if you’re only attracting negative reviews, you just haven’t found your target audience yet. And remember, it’s impossible to please everyone, and no one should try to do that.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I actually think that with independently published books you can certainly judge how much effort has gone into a book by looking at the cover. If someone is passionate about their work they will take time to make sure that the cover is something that adequately reflects the book’s content. For example, I design my own covers and put a lot of effort into making sure that it is something I would like to look at, something that would attract me to the book. I often purchase a book based on the fact that I like the cover and for no other reason. Usually, if it’s a good cover, it’s also a good book. I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste. All art is subjective, but if the author has designed their own cover and you like that, chances are you are also going to like the book; they both come from the same artistic spring. I’ve noticed that most big name publishers don’t put a lot of effort into book covers; that’s probably because they know the book is going to sell due to the hype and adverts. As an artist, I appreciate that book covers are a great way to showcase art. I used my own art work for the covers of Haunted, Pieces of a Rainbow, and The Dream; those were inspired by the books. I also took the photograph that is now the cover of Coincidences (second edition). For my other books I have used photographs from Morguefile.com, and have used iPhoto to play around with the original photos and adjust them to suit the book. For example, the photo of the swan on my cover for Fusion was originally in colour, I think, and was not at an angle, but I played around with it to try to get the swan to look a bit more intimidating, as one of the stories is a bit of a horror story involving swans.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Favourite: Cheesecake or chocolate, or better still: chocolate cheesecake.

Least favourite: Broad beans

What music soothes your soul?

Heavy metal/rock. I remember once walking out of Metallica concert and saying that I wished life was a Metallica concert… I always get a great vibe when I’m at rock/heavy metal festivals and gigs.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

I have lots of favourite films and books, but if I had to choose one of each, it would be:

Favourite film: Shirley Valentine

Favourite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Listen more, be kind, smile more

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CHAT WITH SHYKIA BELL

Shykia Bell developed a love for writing at a very young age and often dreamed of authoring books, but her career took several turns before she penned her first sci-fi/fantasy novel, Camileon. She is presently working several projects, including the third installment of her Camileon series. Shykia currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Max, their cat and cockatiel.

Time to chat with Shykia!

What is your latest book?

Hi, Lisette. Congratulations on the launch of your brand new site and thank you so much for having me here at your lovely Writers’ Chateau! I’m thrilled to be your guest. My most recent novel is CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil. It’s the second in a series that chronicles the life of a young woman who wrestles with her identity and her past as she undertakes a harrowing task that could either help or hurt humanity in their fight against malevolent forces, both seen and unseen.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That all indie authors are lazy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If I recall correctly, Sue Grafton recently faced heat for making such an implication. The truth is, there are talented and not-so-talented authors on both sides of the literary spectrum, whether traditional or indie. Even so, indie authors often have to work alone in various aspects of the publishing process. Not only do they have to work on the book itself, they also have to figure out what their brand is and how to market themselves efficiently in this highly competitive industry. It can be downright overwhelming, particularly for those who dare to go against the tide by producing something different than what the current trends dictate.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters surprise me quite often. For example, in CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil, there’s one character who I intended to be gentle and nurturing, but he turned out to be the polar opposite. It certainly made the story a lot more intriguing as the reasons for his nature unfolds. It actually scared me, how easy it was to write him, though some of his actions were tough to process.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

A combination of both. I used to write a lot from elementary school through high school, but fell out of it during college. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered my passion for it. I’m so grateful that I did. It led me to meet some truly fascinating people.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

My current novel is certainly my favorite for a number of reasons. It’s multi-faceted, and though it’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel, it contains situations that were inspired by some of the challenges I’ve had to overcome in reality. It was something I included subconsciously and I didn’t realize how truly connected I was to the characters until I saw fragments of my life in their experiences. That was actually kind of scary since I’m not the type of person who opens up so freely. For a while, I was apprehensive about publishing it, but figured by doing so I was somehow redeeming myself from some of my past mistakes.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Negative reviews can be really tough to swallow, but in the end, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s impossible to put forth a product the entire world will like, because not everyone perceives art, or life, the same way. The best way to handle a negative review is not to dwell on it. If constructive criticism is given, you don’t necessarily have to take it, but you can give it some consideration if you feel it may help you grow. I’m always searching for ways to improve my craft and sometimes paying attention to reviews can be helpful in this regard. Yet, not everyone writes reviews with noble intentions. There are those who simply seek to tear others down by writing scathing reviews, in some cases without even having read the book. It can be tough to figure out the motive behind a negative review, especially if it is written in a non-specific manner, but rather than exert valuable time and energy worrying about it, my advice is for the writer to use those resources to write their next masterpiece.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I think presentation is extremely important. I’ve heard many readers state that an author’s lack of polish on their cover reflects the level of integrity they hold in their work. I’m not sure if that’s always a fair statement since there are people who care very much about their work, but simply lack the skills and/or resources necessary to put together a sharp-looking cover. I happened to be lucky; I used to work as a graphics coordinator and possessed the skills I needed to design my own cover. The photography, however, was done by my extremely talented friend.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

Reader reviews are crucial since fellow readers look for an objective opinion on products before putting their hard-earned money behind it. Not only that, but authors truly want to hear their readers’ honest opinions; at least I know I do. Whether the opinion is favorable or justifiably critical, it shows that the author was successful in making some sort of connection. Isn’t that what we all want anyway; some form of connection that reminds writers that we’re not alone, that the reader also walks the path of our words once the book is finished?

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

That’s a tough one. There are so many wonderful gifts I’ve received and I’m not referring to the material sort. Other than the gift of life, the best gift I’ve ever received was a second chance to live my dream and to find true love.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I never learned how to ride a bike. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Don’t judge. It’s on my bucket list.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

1. Always keep an open mind. One of my mottos is a flexible mind isn’t easily broken. No one is right or wrong all the time and everyone, at some phase of their life or another, plays the role of student and teacher.

2. Find peace and happiness with yourself. Whether knowingly or not, we tend to project our unhappiness onto others, creating a terrible cycle of misery.

3. Be generous with your kindness and patience. It’s free and the more you give, the more comes back to you.

CONNECT WITH SHYKIA

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TWITTER: 10 REASONS I FOLLOW, DON’T FOLLOW BACK, or UNFOLLOW

I’ve been on Twitter for about three and a half years. I’ve met some of the most amazing, wonderful people there. As a writer, Twitter gives me superb access to interesting people all over the world.

A lot of people I know find Twitter very daunting, mostly because they’ve never really tried to use it. It can be intimidating to some to have only 140 characters to make a statement. But it works, and it works well. The more you do it, the more you’ll probably appreciate the way this micro-blogging site works.

Twitter can both be great or not-so-great depending on what you hope to get from it. I’m going to share with you the reasons I follow/follow back, don’t follow back, or unfollow.

WHY I WILL OR WON’T FOLLOW/FOLLOW BACK

1. I consider several things when deciding to follow or follow back. Does this person engage with others? If she is actively having conversations with other tweeters, I’m more inclined to like this person. For one, it shows that she realizes that there are other people on Twitter. And I’m much more inclined to like people who have a photo of themselves for an avatar.

2. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your own work in moderation, but I am a strong believer in cross-promotion. Does this person take a moment to recognize the works of others from time to time? To tweet content of interest?

3. Does the person’s follower/following ratio make any kind of sense? If someone follows me and I see that he is following well over 1,000 people, but only 132 people are following back, there is always a reason. A quick look will tell me that every tweet is virtually the same: they’re all about that person’s book, for example, or the tweets make little to no sense. If the person has 40,000 followers and is following only 2,000 back, I’m not going to assume that he’s found me to be a part of the scintillating minority. Rather, I’m going to think that he’s followed me to get the follow and will unfollow me soon after.

4. Did this person actually follow me or did a bot follow me? For example, I have a novel called Squalor, New Mexico that has nothing whatsoever to do with New Mexico, but often I’ll be followed by businesses such as a real estate company or an auto repair facility in Santa Fe. Nothing against these fine businesses, of course, but it’s clear how they found me and we likely are not tweeting about any common interests.

5. Does the person tweet original content or does she just quote? There are people on Twitter who do nothing but tweet the quotes of others. Once in a blue moon, if I see a great quote, I’m happy to pass it on, but in most cases I have little interest in following someone who merely tweets quotes.

WHY I UNFOLLOW

6. I know that I am not alone in my loathing of people who send DMs (direct messages) to strangers upon following with links to their products or services. Just don’t do it. Really, do NOT do this! If there’s one way to guarantee that I will never check out your book or product, just send me a link about it. To quote my friend author Stuart Ross McCallum, @writer99 on Twitter: “e-converse before e-commerce.”

Some people may ask: If I don’t send you a link, how will you ever know about my new novel, The Vampire and the Hound Dog Get Married? My answer: Engage with people on Twitter as you would in person. Join conversations, start conversations, pay attention to others, retweet what others have to say, be polite, and follow the golden rule. Once you do that, you’ll find that people will click on your bio because they like you. They’ll want to learn more about you. And what do you know, they may even download a copy of your book to their e-reader.

One woman, upon following, sent me a DM that said, “Enjoy the ABC series.” Hello? I only agreed to follow her on Twitter, but now she’s assuming I’m going to read all three books in her series? On what planet?

Then, there are those who send a message saying, “Don’t forget to ‘like’ my FB page?” Hey, I have no idea who you are. We’ve just met. Do NOT assume I’m going to support you at hello. Okay, so how can you ask people to ‘like’ your FB page without being obnoxious? Try a general tweet like this: “Would appreciate ‘likes’ on my FB page. Happy to reciprocate. Just DM or tweet me the link.” Isn’t that better? You’re asking for something but simultaneously offering to help others.

Upon following, I often get a DM saying, “Let’s keep in touch on Facebook, too.” But this person doesn’t want a mutual friendship; she wants you to “like” her page. I am not a fan of this deceitful practice.

7. I’ve just spoken about sending inappropriate direct messages to people. The same goes for tweeting links at people. Not only do people do this, but they do it to people who are not even following them. When I have a new blog, I tweet it to the general public. I do NOT tweet links AT people unless someone specifically asks me to do so. Tweeting links at people is, in a word, spam. There are exceptions when good friends tweet links to me; I have no issue in these cases.

8. I’m much more interested in interesting people than I am in numbers. Some fantastic people who have been on Twitter for a while, just happen to have high numbers of followers, very high, and they actually engage with as many as possible. It’s easy to figure out who cares and who doesn’t. Then there are those who merely want the numbers. They think that if they spend all day and night amassing 30K followers, they’ll be more likely to sell their product. As I see it, the number of followers has nothing to do with sales. YOU are the product first, and if people don’t care about you, they won’t care what you are selling. And, please, don’t boast about how many followers you have. It just tells me that you couldn’t care less about anything but a number.

9. Many people use certain sites to find out who is following back and who is not. I use these sites, too. I won’t necessarily unfollow people who aren’t following me back, but these sites do help me to clean up my lists. These sites often offer people the option to tweet out the IDs of those who have unfollowed them. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be very childish, like calling someone out on the playground. If people unfollow me, that’s okay. But I do not tweet about it. That’s just silly. And when I see people who do this, it’s just a turnoff to me.

10. Politics and religion: For many, these are two subjects to simply avoid. While I do choose not to tweet about either, I am very interested in and most appreciative of the political tweets of others. But tweeting politics is always risky. Many people who do not agree with you will unfollow you. And I am one of them. So, while it’s fine to tweet politics or religion, just understand that you will alienate some people. If you’re okay with that, go for it.

To sum it up, our experiences, good or bad, are what we make of them. Behind the avatars are real people who, like ourselves, deserve to be treated with respect. Enjoy your time tweeting, and I look forward to seeing you in my stream.

And please, tell me about your experiences with Twitter. What are the reasons that you follow, don’t follow, or unfollow?