Authors' Chat

Three Axioms

Martha Kennedy Award winning Author of BragMedallion Honorees, Martin of Gfenn and Savior As a writer, I’ve learned a few pretty obvious lessons, but, as I have the learning style of a crash test dummy, I had to discover them for myself. It comes down to three axioms. Axiom 1 — Give your ardor time to cool before submitting your work. While it’s cooling… Axiom 2 — Get help with proofreading, solicit comments and help from friends, then hire a professional editor. Axiom 3 — Stay true to your work. ********** Axiom 1 — Submit in haste, repent at leisure.  OR…Don’t do anything with your manuscript while you’re in love with it. Love is blind. In 2005, when I finished (and proofread [see Axiom 2]) the initial, complete 500 manuscript pages of Martin of Gfenn, I was so INFATUATED with it that I couldn’t see that it was an overwritten, error-riddled, repetitive nightmare. Four years later, looking at it with clearer eyes, I saw the full horror of my prose. Unfortunately, I’d already queried every possible agent. I decided (as the revised book was exponentially better than the unrevised book) to query them again. Yes, this is the biggest “NO!…

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How to Wrap Your Mind around Selling Books Without Warping It

A Marketing Paradigm By Jo Sparkes -B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Being an indie author means freedom to explore, try new things. It means being uncoupled from editor notes and publisher calendars. It also means book sales are your responsibility. So I developed – in the school of hard knocks – my own grasp of marketing. It’s remarkably naïve, possibly dim-witted. But it does keep me focused on the forest after tripping over tree roots. First, I learned to drop any emotions that the word ‘marketing’ stirs. Fears of rejection, failure, and that evil nemesis self-doubt. Honestly, they’re useless here. So if any of these worries sneak up on you, just think of all the truly awful stuff shamelessly hawked at us every day. You know what I mean. Rondo knives, vaginal douches. Superman versus Batman. Now, with emotions gone, let’s define this marketing thing as a three step process. Our goal: tons of people rush to buy our book, avidly read it and then race to tell everyone how wonderful it was. The word of mouth is so powerful that nothing else matters. Sweet, huh? Achieving this nirvana depends on three things. Let’s continue working backwards – which ought to warn…

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Writing what you love to write – and read… by Anna Belfrage

Sometimes, people ask me why I write historical fiction. “Why such a difficult genre?” they ask, which in itself makes me a tad irritated, as historical fiction, IMO, is not a genre – it’s an umbrella under which all other genres coexist. In essence, the “historical” in historical fiction merely indicates that the story is set in a non-contemporary time. It says nothing about the content as such, albeit that many people seem to think historical fiction is defined by blood and gore and thousands upon thousands dying in one battle or other. Yes, that stuff happens in historical novels. It also happens in contemporary novels – it happens in real life around us on a daily basis. There are historical novels that are essentially love stories, there are others that are coming-of-age stories, yet another author delivers a well-crafted thriller set in distant times, and quite a few produce so called cosy mysteries a la Miss Marple. As long as all these very different books are set in the past, they end up labelled as historical fiction – and considered comparable. Obviously, they are not. I write books set in the past because I am something of a history…

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Writing Across Genres: How Boldly Following Your Inspiration Can Change Your Destiny

By Sheri Fink A few years ago, a reporter asked me what I’m working on next and I revealed for the first time that I was writing a draft of a romance novel. Seeing that was known only as a children’s author, she followed up with, “Have you ever seen anyone successfully transition beyond the children’s box into women’s fiction?” I paused for a moment and then responded that I didn’t understand the question because I didn’t believe in her “box.” I guess I’ve never believed in the “box.” Instead, I’m something of a free spirit when it comes to writing. I believe in writing from the heart. That means being willing to join your characters on wild and unpredictable adventures. I’m a “pantser” when it comes to writing and I’m often amazed at where they take me, especially when my latest characters took me into the world of romance. I guess readers might have been wondering, “What does a children’s author know about romance?” What does anyone know about romance? I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I’m a hopeful romantic with a vivid imagination for writing a fictional romance. It would be easier to choose the comfort…

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Mozambique’s typical food & Amani’s River

Foodie Lit: A genre of novel and memoirs filled with food stories and recipes Each month, I'll share the magic of a good Foodie Lit read and one of its recipes.  Cooking and recipes in novels or memoirs take us into the mind of the character or narrator and brings us into the book's kitchen to see, smell and share the lives within. Here's to cooking and reading together! Susan Amani's River and Collard Greens! In Amani’s River, an intense well-written historical novel by David Hartness, we are taken inside the mind of Aderito, a 10-year old American who travels with his father and mother to Mozambique. Aderito's father wants to help his family, caught in the brutal violence of the  Mozambique civil war, which raged from 1977-1992. Aderito becomes an unwilling child soldier in this civil war. A quiet studious child, Aderito is transformed into a murderer after his kidnapping by the Renamo rebel forces, fighting against a repressive government forces.  Both forces were accused later of war crimes. Beaten, starved and drugged, Aderito thinks, “This felt as if it were the end.”  But it was not. Memories of his former life fade. “Mixed with emotions, I felt the moral thing to do was tospare his life... However, the thing expected of me was to show my manhood and kill him for…

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Scribbler on the Roof…my journey as an Indie-author.

I don’t need a time machine, a tarot reading or a Pan American flight manifest to map out how I came to be an Indie author. When asked to share a few thoughts on what I learned about writing, publishing and marketing, I was raring to go and happy to take this opportunity to do what authors like to do best- ‘Kvel’ and ‘Kvetch’. Kvelling, a quintessential Yiddish word, conjures up images of beaming parents, proudly boasting about their offspring. While I do my fair share of maternal boasting, today I’m kvelling about another sort of offspring- my books! I wrote a Creative Non-fiction in August 2012 entitled, ‘With Love, The Argentina Family- Memories of Tango and Kugel, Mate with Knishes.’ A Spanish-speaking, blue-eyed, Jewish girl named Mirta who outgrew five passports by the time she was twenty-one and survived a whirlwind romance during one of Argentina’s darkest periods had plenty of writing material! This first book was written to honor my parents, my heritage and my rather unique upbringing as a ‘Pan Am brat.’ More recently, I published a Historical Fiction/Fantasy that incorporated my love of period drama with Judaica. Talk about fantasy… ‘Becoming Malka’ literally came to me…

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Non-Fiction and The Brothers Path

Martha Kennedy Author of indieBRAG Medallion Honorees, Martin of Gfenn and Savior It’s estimated that as many as 20,000 Swiss emigrated to America before 1820, bringing not only their hard-working, flesh-and blood-selves, but religious and political philosophies that influenced what this nation became. I knew nothing about any of this until, at the suggestion of a Swiss reader of Martin of Gfenn, I began researching my own family tree. There I met the Schneebelis. At the time, I was in the midst of writing Savior, the story of a 13th century Swiss family, very minor nobility, living in a castle-fort near Affoltern am Albis in the Canton of Zürich. I based the setting of my story on a hillside and castle ruin I’d seen on a hike with a friend. I was dumbfounded when, in the midst of “finding my roots,” I found that my own ancestors had lived on that very hillside and in that very castle-fort. Even more creepy, the people in my family had the same names I’d given the characters in my story. OK, it’s true that there were not many names used in those places in the 13th century (boys were usually Rudolf, Hugo, Conrad,…

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The Life—and Art—of Writing: Justine Avery Interviews Film Director Devon Avery

I eagerly snatched up the opportunity (excuse?) to interview my husband about his view of and feelings toward my writing career.  Don't we all wonder what those close to us really think about our uncanny attraction to language, our mysterious-seeming mood swings stemming from that writing we go off to do all alone, how we eye everything as if it's a potential story or character or bit of dialogue, or what they think it means to "be a writer?" Counting on brutal honesty and hoping for extra encouragement and insight from the perspective of a fellow creative working in a different medium, I proceeded to prod my film director and voracious reader husband, Devon Avery, for what it's really like to be in a relationship with a writer—witnessing the ups and downs of a writing career firsthand—for any advice he has to share for the creative process and its challenges, and his view of the role we writers serve for all of humanity.  (As his wife, I get to ask heavily loaded questions!) When we first met, I was a "writer" who didn't write.  I said I was a writer—I'd had a few stories and articles published in the past—but…

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Picnic With My Dreamboat by Anna Belfrage

The barley dips and bows in the wind, ripe and golden it extends every which way. Man-high, the ears brush my cheek, and as I balance along the narrow pathway that divides one field from the next, I suspect I’m almost invisible. Not so Matthew Graham. My favourite 17th century man, my very own personal dream-boat, comes walking through the barley, careful measured steps so as not to damage his crops. I stop to properly absorb the pleasure of seeing him move, all the way from how his worn shirt strains over his broad shoulders, to how lightly he plants his feet, long legs striding effortlessly over the uneven ground. Now and then he pauses, crumbling an ear or two between his fingers. To judge from his smile, the crop looks good – as does he. “A picnic?” He tilts his head to the side, using his hat to fan some much needed air his way. I point at the basket. “Weighs a ton.” “Ah.” He points at a distant grove. “Over there?” Seeing as he’s a gentleman, he offers to carry the basket. “Have you ever had a picnic before?” I ask him as we spread out the tartan…

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Inspiration’s Mysterious Power

Martha Kennedy Author of BRAG Medallion Honorees, Martin of Gfenn and Savior Ancient Greek poets didn’t believe that they, themselves, came up with their stories. They believed that they, as poets, were simply an instrument of the Muses, well-disposed goddesses who quickened the poets’ minds with inspiration. My high school art teacher didn’t believe in inspiration. He believed in hard work. “If you wait for inspiration to hit, you’ll wait forever. Just paint.” I’ve written a lot in my life without being inspired, sort of the equivalent of my high school art teacher’s “Just paint.” I wrote because I am a writer, and a writer is an observer. I’ve always seen the world, the people around me, and my life as interesting, so I transcribed it. Even my mom said, ‘You’re a good writer. You just don’t have anything to write about.” Then… In 1997, during a particularly interesting point in my life, I went to Switzerland. My friends took me to see a little 13th century church in a small village north of Zürich, the chapel of the Knights of St. Lazarus in the village of Gfenn. Lepers had lived there; not just lepers, but leper knights. The moment…

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